I still have some of the wonderful corn bread left from yesterday so I decided to make some soup today to pair with the bread. I thought May Haddow’s Tomato Soup recipe sounded suitable for a cool March day. It is one of three tomato soup recipes in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book.
I would have liked to make this recipe with fresh tomatoes or at least home canned tomatoes but I only had a tin of commercially canned tomatoes. This is still accurate for 1906 as canned tomatoes were available in stores. This was the era when commercial canning really started to take off. The Berlin News Telegraph, in March 1906, has regularly appearing ads by Clarks brand for a variety of canned food including veal loaf, beef and the one I remember from childhood, Clarks Pork and Beans. On April 7 there’s an ad for Berlin Mercantile Company that lists Quaker brand tomatoes for 9 cents per tin.
However, I opted to make just half the recipe. One quart equals 4 cups so I used 2 cups (1 pint) of canned chopped tomatoes. The ingredients on the can listed just tomatoes. I heated the tomatoes and put them through a sieve. This got rid of the seeds and hard bits. I started heating it again and added 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. It did indeed foam for a while. Next was the 1 % milk and the rolled soda crackers. I used four of the little squares to simulate the way crackers were packaged long ago. I put them between parchment paper and rolled them with my rolling-pin until they were fine. A modern cook might choose to put the crackers in a ziplock baggy to make it easier. Finally I added 1/2 tablespoon of butter and some salt and pepper and let the soup heat for 15 minutes.
May Haddow lived in a very female household in Berlin. She is the daughter of Jessie and John Haddow who were born in Scotland. Mrs. Haddow emigrated when she was about 24. The Haddows have six children at home in the 1901 census. Most of them are working as glovemakers. Not surprisingly they are listed as Presbyterian. May’s father, a retired farmer, dies in 1902 at the age of 63. In the census of 1911 her mother Jeanette (or Jessie) age 65 is listed as head of household and she has five daughters living at home with her at 191 Victoria St. Their brother James has moved on. They range in age from 37-year-old Mary to 26-year-old Alice. They work in stores and for the Whitewear clothing factory where they are in sales or sewing or specialize in dressmaking. There are several female headed households among their neighbours and many many women.
I imagine the Haddows had to be very frugal. This soup would be cheap, particularly if they grew their own tomatoes in a front or back garden. It could be kept on the back of the stove to reheat if a family member returned home late for their noon or evening meal.
I sampled the soup alone and with a toasted slice of yesterday’s corn bread. I don’t eat tomatoes very often but this soup is okay. I think the soda takes away the acidity of the tomatoes. The crackers help thicken the soup a little. The type of tomatoes could really affect this soup both in colour and flavour. If you want to make tomato soup from scratch then May Haddow’s recipe is a good place to start. A modern cook could use this soup recipe as the beginnings of something quite tasty.
1 quart can tomatoes or 12 large tomatoes peeled, boil half an hour in water and strain or mash through a colander, heat thoroughly or boil up again and stir in half a teaspoon of soda, when the foaming ceases add 2 crackers rolled fine, 1 quart of heated milk, 1 tablespoon butter, salt and pepper to taste, cook 15 minutes.