Heirloom Recipe: Tomato Soup

When we hear someone speak of a family heirloom, we may envision a pocket watch, silver teapot or even a quilt.  Recipes are also treasured pieces of family history passed down from generation to generation.  This tomato soup recipe originally belonged to my great-grandmother, Delia Crumpaker Rieley and dates back to the 1800s.  I remember watching Grandma Rieley making it during the winter months with juice from tomatoes canned the previous summer.  Last week, with temperatures dropping, I decided to make my family’s heirloom recipe for tomato soup; I made it in my great-grandmother’s kitchen with homemade juice from tomatoes grown on our 106-year-old family farm.  I loved being part of that continuity.  In taking time to carry on simple traditions, not only do we connect with the past, but we perpetuate memories that we hold dear.

My great-grandmother most likely made this tomato soup with fresh milk from Green Hill Dairy Farm and the summer’s bounty of tomatoes picked from my great-grandfather’s vegetable garden. It is very simple, only requiring 3 ingredients; however, don’t let its simplicity fool you.  It’s delicious!  Just the thing on a cold evening–it really hits the spot!  Serve casually in a mug or in a bowl garnished with a little basil for color (my addition).  Oh, and don’t forget oyster crackers–the perfect accompaniment.  Enjoy!

Heirloom Recipe:  Tomato Soup

*Use organic ingredients when possible

Serves 4


1 quart tomato juice (homemade is best)

1 quart milk (2% or whole, may not need butter if using whole milk)

1 level teaspoon baking soda (reduces acid in tomato juice to stop milk from curdling.)

a pat of butter (optional)

salt and pepper to taste (optional)

garnish with basil (optional)


In a medium to large pot, bring a quart of tomato juice to a boil using medium-high heat.  As soon as juice starts to boil, add level teaspoon of baking soda and stir constantly.  Continue stirring as tomato juice begins to foam.  Turn down heat to medium-low and then add milk and butter.  Continue to stir, making sure soup is steaming but not boiling.  Taste before adding salt and pepper.


The tomato juice/milk ratio may be varied depending on taste preference: tomato taste versus creaminess.


  1. Being an antique dealer I haven’t though of recipes as heirlooms but they truly are. Thank you for piquing my memory banks. You’ve inspired me to write about my favorite family recipe from my grandmother.

    Liked by 1 person

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