Friday, May 2, 2008

Huckins Tomato Soup

“Only the pure of heart can make good soup.” Ludwig Van Beethoven

Well, it looks like we are celebrating Tomato Soup today. Why you may want to ask. Well, it seems that on May 2, 1865, James H. W. Huckins of Boston, Massachusetts applied for his patent titled "Improved Tomato Soup." His invention was registered with the United States Patent Office as patent number 47,545.

Be it known that I, JAMES H. W. HUCKINS, of Boston, in the county of Suffolk and State of Massachusetts, have invented a new and useful or improved composition of matters, which may be termed "Tomato Soup," and I do hereby declare the same, or the materials' of which it is composed and the mode of compounding them, to be described as follows: source

It seems rather odd to me that tomato soup was "invented" and that there is actually a patent for it. It seems stranger that the patent would be awarded to someone who had nothing to do with Campbell's. But, so it goes. Campbell's wouldn't be founded for another 4 years. 1869 to be exact. What would possess someone to "invent" tomato soup, I wonder? I'm waiting for one of those legendary stories. You know, the ones we often come across when seeking the truth, why we eat what we eat, and when did it all begin? Thank goodness for writers like Andrew F. Smith. Andrew F. Smith is a writer and lecturer on food and culinary history. I was delighted to visit his website which lists many of his accomplishments and his long list of exceptional books. I haven't gotten my hands on his well received book The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery yet so I thought I would find some information at his website. Unfortunately, there wasn't any per se. There is a short review of his book which I still want to get someday but, I found a more in depth review here.

Mmmm....how do I delve into the history of tomato soup without that darn book? Well, it seems that Mr. Smith has another book titled Souper Tomatoes: The Story of America's Favorite Food which happens to be sold at Amazon. This book summarizes the history of said soup and a whole lot more. Okay, before we go on, I must say this. I am not a food critic or a book reviewer and I don't point you in the direction of buying books about food for money. I never want this blog to be a commercial for anything. That's why you don't see ads and such. I just figure, if I find something I think may be of use to anyone, anywhere, why not offer the information. Do with it what you like:) Anyway, the above site does have editorial reviews about the book and was probably the place I first discovered the name of the man who invented tomato soup. The resource is below if you would like to review the reviews. Back to tomato soup.

Tomato Soup Recipe

Interestingly, in James Huckins patent request he lists the ingredients and method for preparing his soup invention. Basically, the formula consisted of 50 pounds of beef-shin, water and, one and a half bushels of mashed tomatoes. Onions, turnips, carrots, beets, butter three and a half pounds! flour, black pepper, and brown sugar were added to the beef and tomato stock. The mixture was boiled and strained. "Huckins believed that this composition had inherent preservative qualities preventing decomposition "for a great length of time." The Patent Office thought this was so good that they issued a patent on the recipe a few weeks after they received the application. Sometime after this date, Huckins began canning his soup, making him the first known soup canner. He first launched his advertised canned tomato soup in 1876. As Huckins's soups were extremely successful, other canners entered the field, including the Campbell Soup Company." If you viewed the link provided above, you could see his recipe. If you didn't and want to, once again, here is the patent at google patents which also lists the recipe.


Heinz Tomato Soup Die-cut

Everything in the soup or, is it the other way around? Like many, I associate soup, or for today's purpose, tomato soup, as the perfect accompaniment to a grilled cheese sandwich, personally, I enjoy a nice hot bowl of tomato soup with a tuna fish sandwich. I don't know what it is, I just think they are a "perfect marriage." It must have something to do with the fact that I LOVE fresh garden tomatoes and a nice slice of red globule perfection sliced on a tuna sandwich is, shall I say, to die for! Okay, I'm getting a bit dramatic here. The fact is, tomato soup is also sometimes used as a main ingredient in recipes. There's the infamous tomato soup cake which I have had the pleasure of experiencing first hand. I don't want to get into the whole story right now so I'll sum it up. A few years ago, I was invited to a Mystery Dinner in honor of Rex Stout. Everything on the menu had to be "mysterious." A few of the recipes were harvested from the Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout. A few were not. The Mystery Cake was not. Now, mystery cake by any other name may be called Tomato Soup Cake. Yes, indeed, tomato soup cake certainly got those taste buds "a-wondering." You'd be surprised though. The taste is ever so subtle, more like a colorful spice cake dotted with raisins. It's easy for me to imagine the evolution of tomato soup cake. Actually, its right up my alley. I'm one of those people who cooks with total disregard to how it has been done before. Granted, I'm not always proud of it and granted, I have had more then my share of flops but, as T.W. reminds us, tomatoes are a fruit. It doesn't seem odd to offer "Love Apple Cake" for dessert does it. What about Love Apple Pancakes or Love Apple Bread?

From The Epicurean Table...there were those who believed this enticing, bright red fruit had aphrodisiac powers, as did the French, who called it pomme d'amour or love apple though this is believed to be an alteration from the Spanish pome dei moro or apple of the moors. source

Below I have provided a few recipe links so you can explore other uses for tomato soup. I have a few contributions I would like to include also. First, I think it best to begin with a recipe for tomato soup. Now, I know there are dozens of recipes for tomato soup available in the stockpot of the internet so I thought I would offer one that may be a bit unusual or perhaps just lost...It comes from The Delineator Cook Book. (1928) If I were you, I would save this recipe for the end of the summer when you have tomatoes abounding in your garden or when your neighbors offers them for FREE! The recipe doesn't tell what kind of tomatoes to use but in my opinion, I think the best tomatoes for this recipe would be plum tomatoes. A plum tomato or paste tomato is a type of tomato used for sauce. They also make a beautiful roasted plum tomato soup. The sun dried tomato recipe below calls for tomato puree. I would imagine you could try store bought tomato puree or make you own.

Tomato Paste
Spread thick tomato puree on dry plates or flat granite pans which have been brushed with unsalted fat. As soon as a film forms over the top, loosen the paste with a spatula, and turn it on to a screen covered with cheese cloth. Dry in in the sun or a very slow oven. When it is so dry that it can be handled without sticking, roll it in paraffin paper, fold under the ends of the paper, and store it in a tin box or glass jar.
The paste may be used for soups, sauces, scalloped dishes, etc. Soak it in cold water until it is soft, before adding it to any hot mixture. One teaspoon of the paste makes one cup of soup.
Ed. Note: If you decide to dry them in the sun, make sure to cover them with some sort of netting such as used for shielding mosquitos. Waxed paper is a good substitute for paraffin paper, which by the way, was invented by Thomas Edison. It was first used for wrapping candies:)
This next recipe for Savannah Tomato Soup comes from the Savannah Sampler Cookbook (fifth printing 1981) by Margaret Wayt DeBolt. The recipe was contributed to Favorite Recipes From Savannah Home, 1904 by Mrs. L. M. Le Hardy.
Savannah Tomato Soup
One quart canned tomatoes, 1 pint hot water, 1 tablespoonful sugar, 1 teasponnful salt, 4 cloves, 4 peppercorns (or 1 salt spoon white pepper), 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoonful chopped onion, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 tablespoonful cornstarch. Put tomatoes water, sugar, salt, cloves peppercorns on to boil. Put butter in a small saucepan, and when it bubbles, put in the onion and parsley. Fry five minutes being careful not to burn it. Add the cornstarch, and when it is well mixed, stir it into the tomatoes. Let it simmer 10 minutes. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Strain, and serve with croutons.

While I was researching for today, I came across a website that suggests the origin of the tomato soup cake recipe may have come from the south. I wish I would have saved the link, didn't. It said something to the effect that people who had little money experimented with what they had. Some of these recipes resulted in desserts such as tomato soup cake and perhaps, mayonnaise cake, which we will explore another day:)

Tomato Soup Cake Recipe

I couldn't go off without offering a recipe from this Heinz Tomato Soup die-cut cookbook which is pictured. It is dated 1953 and was published by the Heinz Corporation in Canada. I consider myself quite lucky to have 2 of these die-cuts. The other booklet is pretty much the same except that is is titled Cream of Tomato Soup. It was also published in Canada. The scanned recipe is of course for Tomato Soup Cake:

The final recipe offering I have for today is from The Boston Cooking School Magazine December, 1902. I thought it would be interesting to see a recipe from this time because as we have discovered, tomato soup was still fairly new to the market. James Huckins first offered his canned soup in 1876 and In 1897, Dr. John T. Dorrance, began working for the Joseph Campbell & Co. Dorrance is credited with developing a commercial method for condensing soup by halving the quantity of its heaviest ingredient; water.

Dr. Dorrance made his mark on history with the invention of condensed soup in 1897. By eliminating the water in canned soup, he lowered the costs for packaging, shipping, and storage. This made it possible to offer a 10-ounce can of Campbell’s condensed soup for a dime, versus more than 30 cents for a typical 32-ounce can of soup. The idea became so hot with Americans that in 1922, the company formally adopted "Soup" as its middle name. source

While I was preparing to add the following recipe, I got a phone call from my daughter Michele. When I told her I was posting about tomato soup and also including a recipe for Tomato Soup Cake, her first response was, YUK! We got to talking and after a while she told me a few of her tricks to add "mystery" ingredients to the meals she prepares for her kids. Somehow, we wound up talking about Beet Cake. Her kids are pretty fussy eaters so I guess she figured if she made Chocolate Beet Cake she could get more vitamins into their little bellies. So, if you're wondering why I have included Beet Cake recipes in the resources, she is the reason why:)

Cream Of Tomato Soup: Cook a quart of tomatoes, a tablespoonful of sugar, and a slice of onion with a clove fifteen or twenty minutes. If the tomatoes are very ripe or have been long canned, thus increasing the latent acidity, add 1/4 teaspoonful of soda. Strain and reheat. Make a white sauce of half a cup of butter, 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoonful of salt, a dash of pepper, and 1 quart of milk. Gradually stir one mixture into the other, and serve at once with bread croutons. The acid of the tomato sometimes causes the milk in the white sauce to curdle. When this is feared, add the soda as above.


  1. Fascinating! I had no idea that Tomato Soup was "invented" nor that it was not actually vegetarian! Andrew Smith is an excellent writer - he likes to "bust myths" around food, for example back in the old days, there was a rumor that tomatoes were poisonous! He sets the record straight on how such stories started to circulate.

  2. Good morning T.W. & thanks for visiting.

    I was also surprised to discover that tomato soup was not actually vegetarian. It still may not be. Campbell's for one, will not reveal their "secret recipe."

    I've been wanting to gather a collection of Andrew Smith's books for so long. I think the time is right. As you say, he is an excellent writer and I just love all the tidbits of food lore his books reveal.

  3. What a lovely blog you have! I am looking forward to catching up with all your posts...Thanks for linking me, I am going to put you on my blogroll too.

  4. I was also surprised about the beef broth in the original recipe. Your comment about the tuna sandwich reminds me of something I found on Recipezaar. You can't really call it a recipe. Anyway the poster said to add one can of tuna to a pan of prepared tomato soup and add any seasonings as desired. They admitted that it did not sound very good. I tried it and thought it was quite tasty, not fishy.

  5. I love reading about the Huckins Tomato soup. My maiden name is Louise Huckins, and I found you on Google. I am in Central Pa. Love collecting cookbooks and relax after a long day of work by chopping and cooking. Especially in my wonderful iron skillets.


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Thanks for dropping in...Louise