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Cream of tomato soup: home edition. December 23, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
Tags: , , ,

Silence Dogood here. When I was a child, my favorite soup was—you guessed it—cream of tomato soup, the kind that came in a can. I still consider cream of tomato soup a favorite cold-weather comfort food, so when I saw some cans of a local PA brand, Hanover’s, on sale at the little grocery near us, I was inspired to buy a couple.

Turns out, the Hanover’s cream of tomato soup was surprisingly good, rich and smooth with no off-flavors and a simple ingredients list boasting no high-fructose corn syrup or other nasties. And few things are simpler than opening a can of soup, adding milk, butter, and salt, and sitting down with a hot bowl of creamy soup, a hot roll or crusty baguette—or another comfort-food fave, hot popcorn—and a sliced apple. Aaaahhhh!!!

Needless to say, next time I went to the store, I rushed to the soup aisle to stock up. Guess what? No Hanover’s soup. I checked every other brand in the store, and they all had high-fructose corn syrup, flour, and other ingredients that would make them taste just like Campbell’s, which I find has a tinny off-flavor, the reason I’d never eaten cream of tomato soup as an adult. Oh, no, just when it looked like I’d reclaimed my lost love!

Over the next few weeks, I went to a couple of other groceries in the area, in addition to rechecking the original store. No luck. No Hanover’s, and every other brand had the same ingredients as Campbell’s.

Give up? No way, with victory within reach. Heading to my good friend Google, I checked out recipes for homemade cream of tomato soup. I found recipes, all right—recipes that used fresh tomatoes, clove-studded onions, and a slew of other ingredients that had never appeared in the cream of tomato soup I knew and loved, the soup I wanted to reproduce. Not that I’m passing judgment on all these recipes, they might be delicious. They simply weren’t what I was looking for. (I also found a bunch of recipes for cold cream of tomato soup. Yikes.) I was on my own.

Trying to recall what had been in the Hanover’s soup, I thought I remembered that the tomato base was tomato paste. That made sense to me, since the rich depth and sweetness of tomato paste would hold its own in a milk-based soup. I got right to work. Here’s what I came up with:

             Cream of Tomato Soup

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

3 cups whole milk

1 cup half-and-half 

1/4-1/2 stick butter, to taste

salt (we like RealSalt) and Herbamare or Trocomare, to taste

Heat milk and half-and-half until warmed through; do not allow to boil. Add tomato paste, stirring and mashing with a spoon until thoroughly incorporated into the milk base. Keep heat low, never allowing the soup to rise above a simmer. Add salt and Herbamare or Trocomare, stirring gently to blend. (You could substitute white pepper for the Herbamare or Trocamare, if you’d prefer, or add it as well.) Add butter, sliced. When the butter has melted, stir to blend and serve the soup piping hot, never, never allowing it to boil and serving the second it’s ready, so it has no chance to cool. Serves two.

Why did I use a cup of half-and-half in this instead of all milk, you ask? Simple: Most canned soups use adulterants, such as cornstarch or flour, to thicken their soups so they’re “creamy,” but I think this mars both the flavor and texture. However, I still wanted a creamy soup, and the half-and-half gave the finished soup a creamy, silken texture. You could absolutely use all whole milk instead, or try the soup with 1/2 or 1/4 cup of half-and-half  and 3 1/2 or 3 3/4 cups whole milk and see if it was sufficiently creamy for you. (I plan to experiment with cutting down the proportion of half-and-half next time I make it to see how little I can get away with and still have a lusciously creamy soup.)

Anyway, I was delighted with the flavor and creaminess of my cream of tomato soup. And it was no more trouble to make than canned soup. If you’re a cream of tomato soup fan, try it! I think you’ll like it.

           ‘Til next time,




1. fairegarden - December 23, 2009

You sent me to Frances’ recipe book to find my own recipe, made up many years ago, and yup, tomato paste, along with fresh tomatoes, and a mashed apricot among other things were in it. Half and half, minced onion and garlic, chicken broth, cooking wine, basil, parsley, olive oil and worcestershire sauce. This might be a little too out there for your search for simple, but it is good! 🙂

Wow, Frances, I’ll bet that’s good!!! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. This looks like something I could make (er, with veggie stock rather than chicken broth) as a “real,” serve-to-others soup as opposed to a comforting cold-weather lunch soup for me and OFB. (I can’t quite picture basic cream of tomato soup as a suppertime soup!) Now I have to try it!

2. fairegarden - December 23, 2009

Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches was on the dinner menu rotation back when money was very tight and we were feeding a family of six. Everyone loved it, easy and cheap and filling and hot. Nothing beats soup. I still make it a lot, even for company. Not really using recipes but whatever is on hand with broth from the freezer.

I’d have loved it, too, Frances! A good grilled cheese is hard to beat, and put that with tomato soup—yum!!!

3. Daphne - December 24, 2009

When I was a kid one of my favorite lunches was tuna fish sandwiches (with good pickle slices) and tomato soup. I used to dip the sandwiches into the soup. Yum! I haven’t had that in years. We never had cream of tomato soup though. It was always Campbells with water added not milk. I also loved grilled cheese like Frances. Again I’d dip it into the soup.

Daphne, it’s weird, but one of the things I occasionally really craved when I became a vegetarian was a tuna fish sandwich. I had to assume it must have been because of some specific nutrient in tuna fish that my body needed. I never succumbed, but I was very aware of that craving!

4. jodi (bloomingwriter) - December 24, 2009

I have never liked cream of tomato soup, until I ate it made with real tomatoes and ceam/blend. Much improved, but I’m so full of tourtiere I don’t think I’ll eat again til Christmas day! I hope you and our friend Ben have a wonderful, peaceful and joyfilled Christmas.

Goodness, Jodi, I had to look up tourtiere—a new dish for me—but it sounds like a real treat! Hearks back to the Crusades, too, when knights returning from the Holy Land brought newly discovered (to them, that is) and much-enjoyed spices with them. Back then, people thought nothing of adding cinnamon, allspice, cloves and etc. to meat, but today, clove-studded hams are practically the only remnant of that venerable tradition (down here, anyway). I’m glad to see it’s still alive and well in the tourtiere. And a blessed and joyful Christmas to you all and the cats as well!!!

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