Soup in Garlic Season

Garlic, just pulled from the ground.

My mom used garlic very sparingly. Her mom, my gram, never used it. In fact, the story was that when my gram asked an Italian neighbor for a spaghetti sauce recipe back in the 1930’s, and learned that the sauce had garlic in it, she decided she would make spaghetti without garlic because, “Of course, your grandfather wouldn’t eat garlic.” Of course.

Of course? My grandfather, a sixth generation Connecticut swamp Yankee, held a prejudice, common in those days, against garlic, with the belief that it smelled like foreign immigrants, and probably by extension, unwashed, poverty-stricken masses, one of which he knew he was not.

I grow it and use it a lot. My grandparents would think I stink.

And this is the week I harvested my garlic which I planted last fall, and which has already given me blossom-stalks, the curly loop called a scape, the head of which when sliced open looks like a tiny clove of garlic, and packs its own delicious burst of garlic flavor.

Garlic scapes, slightly past prime condition, but still useful.

It will take a while now for the garlic to dry off for storage, and I lay it out on the barn floor to cure. If I get my act together, I gather up three or four dozen of the cloves to peel, and bake them at a low temperature, no more than 300 degrees, with a little olive oil to coat them. They practically melt, and turn into a paste that I freeze to use when the garlic in storage peters out, or gets dry, or tries to sprout.

This is also the time for a seasonal treat of green garlic soup, a bowlful of which sends you out into the world, reeking happily, and fortified with all the healthful benefits reputedly associated with garlic.

Though the traditional version has chicken stock, this soup can be made with vegetable broth. It calls for quite a lot of olive oil, but that is the only fat, and you need it all to make the recipe work. It also calls for red pepper, which you may add to taste, and saffron, which you may not have on hand. If you don’t, leave it out, and don’t worry.

The recipe also calls for sherry. I never use cooking sherry, which is salted and tastes terrible. In my usual, cheapskate fashion, I acquire an inexpensive sherry from the lower shelves of sherry selections in the grocery store liquor department. No one has complained yet.

This is the perfect soup to serve over a slab of crusty bread, toasted, or oiled and grilled. You can eat it hot, cold, or at room temperature. If it seems too garlicky to you, add cream or sour cream to temper it.

Garlic Soup

5 heads of garlic

½ cup olive oil

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

3 pints chicken or vegetable stock

1/3 cup sherry

A pinch of saffron threads


4 thick slices of crusty bread

Olive oil

Break open the heads of garlic and peel the cloves. Put the oil in a heavy cook pot and add the garlic. Cook at a low temperature until the garlic is soft, then remove it and set it aside. Add the red pepper flakes and stir everything briefly, then add the stock and sherry. Turn the heat up and bring the stock to a simmer. Add the saffron. Mash the garlic cloves and add them to the simmering liquid. Reduce the heat again and simmer for another fifteen or so minutes.

If you wish, brush the bread with olive oil and put it under the broiler briefly to toast it, turning it once, and then put it in a bowl and ladle the soup over it to serve. If you prefer a smoother soup, puree it in a blender or use an immersion blender.

Makes about four servings.

Looking for…..Olive balls. Diane Perry over in Rockville wrote me and said, “Have you heard of a recipe that involves a mixture of flour, butter and cheese wrapped around an olive and baked? Sounded pretty good to me. That’s all I know about it.” Sounds like a nifty appetizer. Anyone?

I still haven’t collected any shrimp salad suggestions. If you do anything besides mayo and shrimp, let me know, OK?



Sandy Oliver

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.