Fall has arrived, and with the turning leaves comes an ample harvest and a desperate need to make sure I save, preserve and conserve every last bit of summery goodness before it all goes away.
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It’s hard to complain about having too much fresh produce, but when the end of the growing season comes there’s a lot of pressure to make the most of summer’s last stand, especially where corn and tomatoes are concerned.
Early in the summer, I wait longingly for the first corn to ripen. Tomato season is already in full force by this point, but it’s the sweet, crisp corn that signals the true beginning of summer to me. As soon as I discover a few ripe ears, I make tomato corn soup.
This soup is special in our house because it’s part of the first meal I ever made for my husband back when we were dating. At the time, he wasn’t a fan of soup, and he claims that this delicious soup changed his mind about soup and about me. If I was worth eating soup for, then he decided it was time to reconsider a few things in life.
It’s a great compliment to be able to change someone’s long-held beliefs about food (and many other things, but I digress), and I take great pleasure in making tomato corn soup for our family each summer.
My version of tomato corn soup is adapted from a recipe by Renee Shepherd and Fran Raboff in their classic cookbook “Recipes From a Kitchen Garden.” In the early summer, I make soup using their recipe, but as fall approaches I like this slightly richer version.
I like to keep the “fresh” soup supply coming in winter months, so I also make ample use of our freezer. The soup freezes very well, but I prefer to freeze the individual ingredients, then make the soup when I’m ready to eat. I first strip the corn kernels from the freshest cobs I can get, then blanch them. I chop the tomatoes, then place both ingredients in separate freezer bags marked “ready for corn soup,” each with the appropriate amount to make one recipe. (Two pounds of chopped tomatoes will fit nicely into a quart-sized freezer bag.)
End of the Season Tomato and Corn Soup
Adapted from a recipe in “Recipes from a Kitchen Garden” by Renee Shepherd and Fran Raboff
Serves 6 to 8
2 slices center-cut bacon
1 tablespoon bacon grease
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped in medium dice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups water or chicken stock
2 pounds (approximately 4 to 5 medium) ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups fresh corn kernels (approximately 2 large ears)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
⅓ cup chopped basil
1. In a large, heavy sauce pan, sauté 2 slices of center cut bacon until crispy. Remove bacon and bacon grease from pan, leaving approximately 1 tablespoon bacon grease.
2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan. Once the oil has warmed, add chopped onion and sauté until onion has browned slightly.
3. Add tomato paste and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it turns a rich, dark color.
4. Add water or chicken stock, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and starting to lose their shape.
5. Turn off heat and let mixture cool slightly. Purée mixture using an immersion blender or purée mixture in a blender and return to pan. Note: If using a blender, be sure to let mixture cool sufficiently and purée in batches.
6. Add corn and herbs and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
7. When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with a few bits of crumbled bacon. If you have leftover soup, toss the remaining bacon into the soup before cooling completely and storing in refrigerator or freezer.
Top photo: Tomato corn soup. Credit: Susan Lutz