Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Well, it's about that time of year. Hot, sweaty summer is upon us, and in the Martin/Cunningham family, that meant one thing: it was 'go-time' for Uncle Raymond's Tomato soup. 'Cuz there's nothing like spending a broiling August weekend wiping your brow over an enormous, steaming pressure cooker in a sweltering garage, right?


Cunningham order at Hensler’s Market. 10 boxes of tomatoes, 50 pounds of onions, 1 box of peppers, and a box of green beans to can on the side (just for giggles).

Each year, Ray and the clan would head up the road to Hensler's Market to round up enough supplies to can an entire winter's worth of Ray's famous Tomato Soup - the most delicious soup I've ever had and probably ever will have in my life. Not only is it refreshing and light on its own, it also served as the basis for about a zillion other family recipes, from Mom's Hamburger Skillet Stew to her Stuffed Zucchini Boats. Uncle Ray passed away in 2005, and the soup canning tradition went with him, but every so often I still make a small batch of this simple recipe, both for nostalgia's sake and to once again savor the original taste of summer.  

Dang, that’s a lot of tomatoes! Each summer the cars got kicked out of the garage so that Uncle Ray, Aunt Bea, Aunt Betty, and Granny could begin production on that year’s supply of Tomato Soup.

Original Recipe (bulk recipe, for canning): 
1 peck tomatoes (figure it out)
2 or 3 big onions
2 or 3 big green peppers
¼ C salt*
5 T cornstarch
10 T sugar*
1 stick butter

Cook chopped vegetables (big chunks are fine) in a pressure cooker until soft and gloppy. Press the cooked veggies through a large colander to make tomato juice. (Discard/compost the leftover pulp, or use it for some other purpose if you’d like.) Put juice on the stove and bring to a boil.

Stir together salt, corn starch, and sugar. Add mixture to tomato juice, along with stick of butter. Stir well and cook at a boil until flavors have melded – voila, it’s done! Call Aunt Bea if you get stuck. ;) Sorry, I don’t have any notes on the canning part of the process, but if you know how to can, I believe the process was pretty standard. 

NOTES: Ray liked a lot of salt and sugar in his soup; you may want to cut down on those and add “to taste” as you try out this recipe. / 1 peck = 8 quarts; 4 pecks = 1 bushel; 1 bushel of tomatoes is roughly 53 pounds, so a peck is about 13 pounds.

Ray manning the canner.

Ray with some of the finished jars of canned soup.

Small-Batch Recipe (for one nice batch of soup) 
5 pounds of tomatoes
1 big onion
1 big green pepper
1 1/2 T cornstarch
1 T butter (or more, to taste)
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste

Cook chopped vegetables (big chunks are fine) in a pot until soft and gloppy. Press the cooked veggies through a colander to make tomato juice. (Discard/compost the leftover pulp, or use it for some other purpose if you’d like.) Put juice on the stove and bring to a boil. 

Add salt, corn starch, and sugar to tomato juice, along with butter. Stir well and cook at a boil until flavors have combined. Enjoy! 

The Soup Crew, sitting on the tailgate of Ray’s wagon full of tomatoes. Bea, Granny, and Betty.

Karen E. Martin, M.Ed. is a full-time freelance writer/editor. She has been in the publishing business since 2004, working on books and publications for major and independent publishers, universities, businesses, and private individuals. Prior to entering the field of publishing, Ms. Martin worked for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Peace Corps. in Morocco, Jordan, Mauritania, and Romania as an English teacher and teacher-trainer.

Ms. Martin’s chick-lit novel, Modogamous, is due out in September 2013, and can be pre-ordered on Indiegogo. You can read an excerpt of the book here! A part of each pledge goes toward helping the Capital Area Humane Society in Columbus, Ohio. About Modogamous:

Boy meets Girl. Boy and Girl screw it up.
Girl meets New Boy. Boy meets New Girl.
New Girl meets New Boy.
... and then things start to get complicated.
Relationships, bah! Wouldn't it just be easier to get a dog?

Ms. Martin can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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  1. Traci - this is a brilliant way to celebrate INOT's first birthday. I loved the Latin American theme to the book and the dishes you mentioned throughout - can we have the recipes for those too? Lol! Going to print off and save every one! xxx

  2. I love tomato soup (a bushel and a peck!) and this sounds a lot tastier than my go-to Campbell's! Thanks!

  3. Tomato soup is one of my favorite winter treats. I like to sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top.

  4. Hope you all enjoy the recipe! It really is delicious. Dee, I think you'll like it! And Janine, I do the same thing sometimes! :D

  5. I loved when my grandma would make homemade plum jam. You can't get it in stores where I live, and it wouldn't taste nearly as good anyways.