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

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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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,