February 20, 2013

Winter Freezer Canning: Tomato Soup

At the end of tomato season last summer, I found myself tossing most of the ripe tomatoes into bags in the freezer.

Bags of whole tomatoes have been keeping in my freezer since last summer.

I've been doing this anyway, because freezing makes them easier to peel. After I canned pizza sauce, tomatoes & okra, and chevon gumbo, I saved them because I wasn't sure what to do with them next. I took inventory a couple of days ago, noting I had plenty of everything, almost. What I was running low on, was canned tomato soup. With a winter storm approaching, making and canning more seemed the perfect indoor activity.

Cooking down the tomatoes with onions and celery.

The recipe I use is a modified one from Chiot's Run. When I first started researching canning tomato soup, I discovered there was a lot of controversy about it. Many folks can a condensed soup using a butter and flour base for the cream sauce. According to the USDA, this practice is not safe, something about the fat possibly coating botulism spores so that they can survive even pressure canning. So the camp was divided, some folks having canned creamed tomato soup for decades, others afraid of it. While science often holds sway, so much of it nowadays, at least when it comes to food, favors big business. Unfortunately, when research obliges whomever foots the bill, science loses credibility over the long run.

This is a new kitchen tool for me; I love it! Much faster than my little Foley!
Initially I was looking for a Squeezo, but that brand is out of my price range.

All that said, I decided to forego the cream base before canning, plus I pressure can my soup because I make it with onions and celery. I have found it just as easy to make the cream base when I heat the soup.

13 pints of tomato soup. These could be heated and served as-is, without the
cream sauce, or used as juice or an ingredient for a stew, gravy, or casserole.

Tomato Soup for Canning

To make:
  • about 2 gallons of tomatoes (fresh or thawed)
  • about half a dozen or so onions, chopped
  • a bunch of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup unbleached sugar
  • kosher salt (I add the salt when I fill the jars: 1/2 tsp per pint, 1 tsp per quart)
Cook vegetables until tender. Strain with a food mill. Add sweetening and reheat to simmering

To can:
Wash and sterilize canning jars. Fill jars leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Add salt (if you didn't before). Adjust lids. Process in pressure canner as per Ball Blue Book's recommendation for tomatoes and celery: 30 minutes per pint, 35 minutes per quart. Yield: 13 pints.

To serve:
I write the measurements for the cream
sauce (roux) on top of the lid, so I don't
forget or have to look them up later.
For one pint of canned soup (double for a quart jar):
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
Melt the butter in sauce pan. Slowly mix in flour until smooth. At this point you can brown the flour if desired of just heat until bubbly (white sauce). Gradually stir in
  • 1 jar of soup, whisking to smooth out lumps. 
  • 1 jar of your choice of liquid. I use milk & water (50/50 because Ziggy's milk is so rich), or stock.
Heat and serve. Yield: 4 cups per pint jar of canned soup

I don't know about you, but Campbell's tomato soup was comfort food when I was a kid. I remember well, visiting my grandmother and being served lunch: tomato soup, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a dish of canned pears on a tray in front of the TV so I could watch Bozo the Clown. Now I eat my homegrown, homemade, home canned tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches using homemade bread and butter, and my own homestead goat milk cheese. No pears yet, but hopefully I'll have some to can in a couple of years. This cream of tomato soup is so much better than Campbell's, but the comfort factor isn't diminished one bit. Good memories with an even healthier, tastier tomato soup. The best of both worlds.


Tina T-P said...

Don't forget the shredded yellow cheese on top of the canned pear - ha ha - that soup looks like it will be delicious and what a joy to have on a cold winter's day! XOX T.

Tina T-P said...

I forgot to tell you that I made your Grandma's lemon pie filling (but I just used it as a pudding) - I whipped up some cream and blended it with so it was like a lemon mousse. Heaven on a spoon. :-) T.

Sue said...

Yummy! I'm hoping my garden does better this year, so that I can have home grown tomatoes again. Hopefully there will be some to spare for this. I too remember tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It will be a while before I can claim home made cheese for the sandwich, but hopefully next spring.

Rosalyn said...

Leigh, thanks for posting this recipe! I love homemade tomato soup and having bought a pressure canner just at the end of the summer, and having frozen the last of my tomatoes in bags, this is a perfect way for me to spend one of our storm days. Is there any reason you couldn't put roasted garlic in the soup along with the celery and onions?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the recipe you use! Definitely saving this one :)

Kris said...

Oh my that looks luscious. No tomato soup here this year - last year's drought & deer took my crop. I, too, like to freeze toms then slip the skins when thawed (as well as pouring off the clear liquid) before pureeing them for soup or sauce. There's nothing like homemade. Eat your heart out, Campbells. Enjoy your bounty, Leigh and snug down for the storm.

Leigh said...

Tina, for a lemon lover, that recipe is dynamite! I could definitely see it as pudding. :) You reminded me that my grandmother made my grilled cheese sandwich with Velveeta. I used to love it at the time but now I don't think I'd be able to get it in my mouth!

Sue, the journey is one step at a time. :)

Rosalyn, you can do anything with the recipe that you want! You could add roasted garlic, you could roast all the vegetables, you could even add them after pureeing the tomatoes for a chunkier veggie type soup. I do it this way because of those childhood memories. :) If you wanted to sweeten it without sugar, I'd experiemtn some grated carrot.

Stephanie, maybe next summer for you, eh?

Kris, oh the challenges of gardening! Our deer have never touched my tomato plants so far. I'd hate to lose that tomato crop though. Oddly, we didn't have a drought last summer, but I do have troubles with plant diseases. I hope you do better next summer.

Sandy Livesay said...


Last years tomato harvest had me making salsa and tomato sauce. This year, I've picked several varities of tomatoes to grow. I love the idea of tomato soup, it's a comfort food. I remember the days when grandma and mom would open up Campbells tomato soup heat it up and make a grill cheese sandwich to go with it. Thank you for providing your soup recipe, this is one I must try after the tomato harvest this year.

Benita said...

Just add a grilled cheese sandwich and you are good to go.

DebbieB said...

I really love when you show us the process from start to finish, Leigh - thank you! While I think I'll never get into canning, what a great idea to make my own fresh tomato soup! So much better than the gloppy stuff in a can. Thanks for the recipe!

Nina said...

I was never a fan of tomato soup until I had my first taste of "real" and not canned tomato soup. The difference is amazing. Thanks for the recipe.

Sherri B. said...

Your jars are much prettier that those red and white cans!

I too remember the condensed soup as a comfort food and also a tradition. Every Halloween, before heading out with bag in hand, we would have our tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich...the night would not have been the same without it! xo

DFW said...


The Squeezo is on my Craig's list search but none have popped up. What brand did you decide to go with? I absolutely LOVE cream of tomato soup, & also tomato basil.

Renee Nefe said...

Oh my! Tonight is our first Lenten Soup Supper at Church and I asked the natives what kind of soup they wanted. Hubby wanted "a good creamy tomato soup." YAY! I now have a recipe.

I've been looking everywhere for a pressure canner for canning my broths as freezing them takes up too much room in my freezer and I have plenty of pantry space. Course I would need to learn how to use one. But I'm finding that I might as well get a new canner as the used ones are just as expensive. Still trying to find the right sized one though. And it looks like no matter where I go, I'll have to order it. :p

MTWaggin said...

Yum, bring on the grilled cheese! Interesting post Leigh, I never realized you could freeze tomatoes either. Brings back memories of my Grandma!

Ed said...

I've never thought about freezing whole tomatoes. When you are ready to process them and peel them, do you just blanch them still frozen to remove the skin? Do they thaw out enough during the blanching to then process?

As someone who cans tomatoes and gets behind at times during the summer, I would love to learn more about your method of freezing them and then processing them later!

Leigh said...

Sandy, you're very welcome. Every year I try to make several year's worth of a product so I can make something different the following year. I think the type of tomato makes a difference too. The Romas made a good soup, but I really like the Amish Paste flavor.

Benita, you're reading my mind!

Debbie, it is so much better. Once you taste homemade, you'll never go back!

Nina, exactly!

Sherri, I agree! Funny how food plays such a huge part in our happy childhood memories.

DFW, It's a Roma by Weston, Food Strainer and Sauce Maker. I got if off Amazon along with the strainer accessories. The two totaled about $75. Of course they're plastic and aluminium, which I would ordinarily not want. I've been looking for a Squeezo on craigslist too but like you, couldn't find one. I had a little birthday money to spend last year and this is what I got. An excellent time saver! I've heard the Victorio brand is a good one too.

Renee, it is a super recipe! I agree about getting a new canner. That way you know the gauge is correct, though most county cooperative extension service offices can check the accuracy for you. They're expensive, but so worth it. I have two pressure canners, one that holds 4 quart jars and one that hold 7. I use them both.

Sherry, thanks!

Ed, it's even easier than that. To freeze, just put them in the freezer. No other prep necessary. To peel, just put the frozen tomatoes, a few at a time, in lukewarm water for a few seconds. No boiling water necessary and the peels slide right off. I especially like this method in summer when I'd rather be working with something cold than with something hot!

Florida Farm Girl said...

Sounds wonderful. I've never made tomato soup but I have eaten the homemade version and it is great.

Thanks for the tidbit about freezing the tomatoes. I'd never heard that, so I learned something new today.

Brenda said...

Homemade tomato soup is one of my faves...right up there with mushroom and a healthy cream of broccoli (heart health recipe). I'm enjoying reading your blog...various previous entries and so on. What a wonderful way to add Life to your living. I commend your commitment.
Cheers from Oshawa, Ontario.

Thistle Cove Farm said...

I'd rather can tomatoes and then make soup "fresh"; canning soup just isn't my thing.
I need to make freezer kiwi jam; it's that time of year.

Leigh said...

Florida Farm Girl, I'm always happy to pass on a time saver. :)

Brenda, I love cream of mushroom soup too. I should work on a recipe for that!

Sandra, we mostly eat soup for lunch so I love the convenience of having it ready made. I'm hoping to can more "convenience" foods in the days to come as well. I've been reading about hardy kiwis, is that what you use for jam?

Unknown said...

This is so wonderful! Last weekend i started 50 seeds indoors. Fresh tomato is the best and I am hoping to have enough this year to can some sauce in addition to the usual stuff. I'm curios when you froze yours last summer did you do anything to them before freezing?
That soup looks delish and perfect for these cold days, enjoy.

Leigh said...

Jen, I just pop them into the freezer, no special pre-treatment required. Couldn't be easier. :)

Ed said...

Thanks for the tip! I will definitely give that a try this year.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

I would LOVE the fact that I had so many tomatoes that I was forced to freeze bags of them just for making tomato soup! Maybe this will be the year the dear, or other critters will be fenced out of our garden. You amaze and inspire me so much.

Susan said...

Such a good idea - canning is so much more bearable when it's not 90+ degrees outside! I'll have to try and remember to freeze a bunch (hopefully, this will be a bountiful tomato season) to process during cooler, less hectic times. That sounds like a great recipe.

Leigh said...

Ed, easy peasy!

Janice, it takes me quite a few plants to be able to do that. The other thing I've canned in the past is tomato / veggie juice, but we tend to not drink that so much.

Susan, you've got me thinking that I should do all my tomato processing and canning in the winter! You're so right about both the weather and less hectic times.

* Crystal * said...

I absolutely love home made tomato soup! My grandma used to can it up in big batches too, but I can't remember if she worried about the butter in it or not....... I didn't die of botulism, so if it's not safe at least I dodge a bullet, lol

Denise said...

I made tomato soup for the first time this year and canned it. We went through it in no time, guess I'll have to make a lot more this year. Had to use up all those frozen tomatoes to make room for 1/2 beef and 1/2 pig. They just fit :) My grandma made tomato soup for us and always put a little pat of butter on top along with the grilled cheese sandwich. I made myself some creamed peas on toast the other day. Grandma used to make it for me all the time.

Leigh said...

Crystal, actually I don't think anybody has died of botulism (or even gotten sick for that matter) from home canned tomato soup! Seems somebody though, is always coming up with something to but a damper on everyone's home food preservation efforts!

Denise, I would love to need room in my freezer for half a beef and half a porker! Your describing that pat of butter on that tomato soup makes my mouth water, LOL. I've never had creamed peas though.

Megan said...

Great job on the freezing tomatoes to process later (and to skin!) I'll have to remember that one!

I've always loved Campbell's tomato soup, and though I've never tried homemade tomato soup, it has never tempted me because of the nostalgia associated with Campbell's. I'll have to give it a try sometime!

Leigh said...

Megan, seems we all grew up with Campbell's tomato soup! :)