Comforting, Consoling Tomato Soup

It was just the ticket for one of those blowy, gloomy days with snow whirling around the house and the wind outside doing its level best to undo the work of the woodstoves inside. I’ve always regarded tomato soup as comfort food, and have often kept canned tomato soup on hand for instant consolation. This time, though, I pondered my collection of home canned quarts and pints of tomatoes and thought, okey dokey, time to use some up of the put-by stuff.

Home canned tomato sauce with whole stewed tomatoes, onions, garlic, and smoked paprika perfect for homemade tomato soup.

It tasted so good. And it was remarkably easy to put together. I am sure you can do it with commercial canned tomatoes and sauce, though it seems nothing comes in cans resembling actual pints and quarts any more. Canned goods’ labels always say things like 13.5 ounces or 28 ounces or some other evasive measurement. Don’t get me started on the incredible shrinking can phenomenon.

I’m pretty sure lots of onions are one reason it was so good. I used up three of them because my home-grown onions, Copra by name, are doing what onions in storage often do this time of year, which is to start sprouting. Whenever I use more than one onion, I tend to turn to the food processor because I tear up so badly. That made it easy to be generous with them.
Also I am experimenting these days with smoked paprika. Every once in a while I add a new ingredient to the supply to see if I can jog my cooking habits out of a rut. Recently I have been in a cumin rut, and when Toby finally cried uncle I knew it was time to try another seasoning. The paprika adds a lovely, deep red color to the soup, and a subtle, smoky flavor.

My home canned tomatoes tend to be a tad less sweet than commercial, so I end up adding a bit of honey to take the edge off of them. Also, because I do not always have homemade broth on hand, I use a good quality paste bouillon which usually adds all the salt needed. Otherwise, this soup is all a matter of personal taste.

For some reason or other, I have been using my microplane to grate garlic into food instead of using the garlic press. I end up with a lovely fine puree, and the microplane is a little easier to clean. That’s just FYI.

You’ll have to finesse the tomato stuff. I like using twice as much sauce as stewed tomatoes, so, if you buy canned tomato sauce and tomatoes, acquire them accordingly as closely as you can or want to. Seasoned sauce would work as well as plain, and same for the stewed tomatoes, which these days often come with peppers, basil, and onions in them.

You know, don’t you, that it is practically required by law that you serve grilled cheese sandwiches with the soup?

P.S. Long ago, a Taste Buds reader noted that she liked the column because it called for food that “normal people have in their pantry,” so last week when I called for pomegranate molasses for the apple cake, I thought, this is not very normal stuff. However, Deborah Oliver, of Lebanese American descent, who really understands about Middle Eastern pomegranate molasses, emailed to say “Forget the ‘specialty food shops’ (which I had recommended), “our little (but wonderful) Hannaford in Camden carries pomegranate molasses.”! Duh, I never noticed. She says you can find it, “…halfway down the pasta aisle, sort of in the middle of the ‘ethnic’ foods.”

Tomato Soup
3 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
2 – 3 cloves of garlic (or to taste), pureed
1 quart of plain tomato sauce
1 pint of stewed tomatoes
3-4 cups of beef broth
1 tablespoon or more paprika, smoked or not
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a soup pot and add the chopped onions. Cook until the onions are tender. Add the garlic, and then add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, and broth. Heat it thoroughly, simmer gently a half hour. Break up the tomatoes is they are still too lumpy. Then season to taste with paprika, salt, and pepper.

Serves four to six.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.