THE BEST TOMATOES FOR SOUP
For making soups, the quality of tomatoes is crucial. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, they will be best from the height of summer through the end of September. Perfect tomatoes are rare. Even the bright red ones sold in groceries mid season have probably been picked early to accommodate transportation. Farmer’s markets are you best commercial bet.
Pick big, fat, red, juicy tomatoes for soup. Plum tomatoes, while excellent for sauces, aren’t juicy enough for soup, so that you will be tempted to thin your soup with tomato sauce or water and weaken its flavor. While cherry tomatoes often have excellent flavor, they require careful straining in soups to remove skin and seeds.
As the previous sentence suggests, I dislike the tedious process of pushing tomatoes through a sieve to remove skins and seeds. I prefer to first peel them with a vegetable peeler, then cut them in half crosswise and remove the seeds by squeezing or scooping them out. The tomatoes are then ready to be roughly chopped for the food processor or diced to the desired fineness.
Even if you can’t find perfect summer tomatoes, all is not lost. The addition of aromatic vegetables like onion, carrot, garlic or celery will perk flavors up, as will herbs and spices. Some add a little sugar to tomato soups, and others may add a tablespoon or so of a good wine vinegar just before serving to focus the flavors. If it is deep in December and the only tomatoes in your grocery are a limpid pink, you will be better off using those in a can, but be sure to drain off the juice, which often has a metallic taste, and squeeze the seeds out of each tomato. To substitute canned tomatoes for fresh, use ½ cup canned (after draining and seeding) for each medium size tomato.