Sunday, June 13, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Bisque

It's finally summer! And though we're still a few weeks away from our first tomatoes here in Colorado, many of you in warmer climates are already harvesting the first Mortgage Lifters and Brandywines.

This is a GREAT recipe for a beginning home canner, as cracking a jar of rich, creamy, delicious garden tomato bisque in mid-winter is nothing short of miraculous. And if you're like me, the ultimate comfort food when you're sick is grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup--for which this recipe is perfect!

If you're canning, this recipe is good for a large batch (it makes 6-7 quarts). Obviously, if you don't want to preserve the soup, you can scale it down.

Also, this preparation results in a fairly uniform, smooth soup, but there usually remain a few small bits of tomato skin after preparation. If you want to, remove the skins by blanching the tomatoes for a minute and peel skins off. This will give you a uniformly smooth soup, but I find that it’s not always worth the trouble.

And remember: ONLY use fresh homegrown or Farmers' Market tomatoes. If I hear of anybody using Styrofoam grocery store or canned tomatoes, I'll personally come to your house and kick your ass for defacing this recipe. The simplicity of this recipe relies on you using only the best, sweetest, most flavorful tomatoes available.

Prep time: 1-2 cocktails (not counting reduction time)

1 quart veggie stock--preferably homemade (click here for recipe)
12-14 pounds ripe local tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), divided
2 medium onions, chopped
4 TBSP flour
1 quart half-and-half
¼ cup sea salt
Black pepper
Agave nectar

In a very large stockpot, combine the veggie stock and tomatoes on high heat. Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil and reduce to medium.

Once you’ve got the tomatoes started, melt half the butter in a skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onions, and sauté until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add onions to the tomato mixture and stir well. Continue to simmer the tomatoes until they break dow fairly well, about 20 minutes.

As you cook the tomatoes, melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan over slightly-less-than-medium heat. Add flour and whisk constantly for 3 minutes. Stir in half and half and bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat a notch and continue to whisk constantly for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

In batches, combine a few ladles of the tomato mixture with some of the half and half mixture in a blender and puree very, very well. Place this mixture in a fresh pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add salt and a good dose of pepper. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until you’ve reached a nice thick-soup consistency—about 1-2 hours, depending on the water content of your original tomatoes. And depending on the sugar content of your original tomatoes, the amount of agave will vary. Add until the sweetness of the soup just begins to come through, this is usually a few TBSP for most heirloom tomatoes, but will be more for paste tomatoes.

Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Enjoy now, or can the batch, according to your pressure canners' instructions for creamy soups.

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