Today was another lovely fall day, a day for a warm soup with a hint of summer, so I am making Tomato Soup using Miss N. Decker’s recipe from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. It was two hundred and one days ago that I made another Tomato Soup recipe. So much has happened in those 200 days that it hardly seems like the same year! My house was in one piece and the rumblings of job loss were still faint. And yet Tomato Soup is a constant. I grew up with tomato soup so it is familiar and comforting — something that must have affected the women of the Berlin Cook Book too. Some of the recipes are innovative and unusual while others would have been old familiar favourites even in 1906.
I don’t have any fresh tomatoes so I used canned. In 1906 canned tomatoes could be home canned in glass jars or commercially canned in metal containers. I’m using the commercially canned tomatoes. I think my 28 fl oz (796mL) can is one of the sizes available in grocery stores at the turn of the 20th century too.
I put the drained canned tomatoes in a saucepan along with a chopped onion and let them boil for 45 minutes. Then I added the two teaspoons of salt and 1/3 of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and six cups (3 pints) of hot water. I tried to follow the directions regarding the butter and flour and discovered this is simpler than it sounds. Two tablespoons of butter mixed with 1 tablespoon of flour and then some of the soup dribbled in slowly and stirred. Once this “roux” was ready I stirred it into the soup. I let it simmer for 10 minutes and then tasted. I decided not to add the cup of milk since it was two floors down and I’m not fond of tomato soup with milk.
In 1906 Miss N. Decker is Nellie K. Decker, a 26-year-old shoe maker living with her parents, two older sister, six younger sisters and three younger brothers. In 1911 her parents and some of her siblings are living at 66 Weber street. It is likely that’s where they lived in 1906 too.
This soup is great. I’m sure the version with milk is good too if you like that style. I’m not fond of tomatoes so finding a home-made tomato soup that has tomato flavour but isn’t overpower is a bonus. It was slightly salty but it is probably the right amount when milk is added. The cayenne gives the soup a little kick right into 2012. I suggest chopping the tomatoes and onions finely but some people might like the more chunky soup I created. This is a great base for a modern cook to add their own spin but the 1906 version is very good too. I was worried that the onions would taste “raw” and had considered frying them a little but the plain version suit this soup.
1 quart of fresh tomatoes or 1 can, 1 onion, 4 ounces butter, 1 tablespoon flour, 2 spoons salt, 1/3 spoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 pint rich milk, 3 pints water. Boil tomatoes and onion 3/4 of an hour, add salt pepper and three pints of hot water, the butter and flour rubbed smoothly with a little of the soup to aid in mixing and a little more to make it like thin cream. Boil ten minutes and when ready to serve, pour on the milk which must be boiling to prevent it curdling the soup. It may be made thinner if required.