Cool fruit soups for hot summer days

Cool Cantaloupe Soup (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

It’s midsummer. In the heat of summer, cold fruit soups are sweet and refreshing. They can be a dessert, a snack, an appetizer, or even a light meal. These soups are a perfect blend of sweet and tart flavors.

Summer is when we enjoy all types of fresh fruit. First come strawberries, then peaches and cherries. These are followed by blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, melons, plums. Pears and apples come at the end of the season.

Sweet or tart, fresh fruit is a burst of delicious flavor. It comes ready to eat, and is often touted as ‘nature’s fast food.’ Unlike processed fast food, however, fresh summer fruits are chuck full of vitamins and other important nutrients. They provide dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid) important to health. They also have a plethora of important antioxidants and phytochemicals. Most are low in calories, and all are fat free.

Cool fruit soups make use of seasonal fruits. They are a summer tradition in Eastern and northern Europe: Scandinavia, the Baltics, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.

Fruit soups probably originated with Finno-Ugric migrations prior to the Christian Era. Leo Tolstoy mentions fruit soup in Anna Karenina, where Prince Shcherbatsky claims plum soup cured his daughter Kitty.

Depending on the place of origin, they’re served chilled or at room temperature, as a first course, dessert, snack, or even as a main course with the addition of dumplings, noodles or crisp buttery croutons. Examples are Finnish rhubarb soup, Czech blueberry soup and Polish sour cherry soup. In Scandinavian countries, they are a popular summer dessert.

While they look elegant, they’re easy to make with little equipment beyond a pot, a spoon to stir with and a heat source to cook on. An immersion blender is useful but not necessary – after all, our grandparents didn’t have these modern kitchen conveniences.

To make them, the fruit is cooked and mashed. Because they get their sweetness and flavor from the fruit, they don’t need much sugar or spices, which were expensive commodities for earlier generations. The soup is traditionally thickened with potato starch, but corn starch, flour, or tapioca can also be used. It is often a simple blend of cooked, mashed fruit, water, and a thickening. Spices, like cinnamon sticks, are sometimes used when cooking the fruit. Sugar may be added when using tart fruit, like rhubarb or sour cherries.

For a fancier dish, creme fraiche, sour cream or yogurt makes the soup rich and creamy. These can be plopped on top of each serving, or stirred into the main pot. Wines, liqueurs, or spices can be used to add interest and flavor, but are not necessary.

For a basic fruit soup, simply cook the fruit in water with spices and sugar (if using) until it is soft. Then remove any whole spices (like a cinnamon stick), mash some or all of the fruit, and thicken it with cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca or flour. Cool, and serve in mugs or bowls topped with a dollop of yogurt, sour cream, or whipped cream. Or mix in the crème fraiche or yogurt, and serve with sweet buttered croutons, dumplings or noodles.

Fruit picked in the peak of its season makes an especially tasty, nutritious treat. Their wide appeal is due to the fresh fruit flavor and natural sweetness as well as the nutritional value.

Sour Cherry Soup

Ingredients:

1 pound sour cherries

4 cups water

1 cup red wine (optional)

1/3 cup sugar, or to your taste

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup water

1 Tablespoon fresh chopped mint (optional)

Crème fraiche (optional)

graham crackers or other sweet crackers or sugar cookies, for serving, if desired

Directions:

Wash and pit the cherries. Boil water with sugar and wine (if using); add cherries. Lower heat to simmer and cook until soft, 20 – 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Mash, blend with immersion blender, or put through the food processor. Return to pot cherries were cooked in.

Blend corn starch with cold water, add to soup and return to boil, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add mint, if using. Remove from heat and chill.

This makes a large pot of a wonderful cooling beverage; add ice cubes if desired. You can also serve it in soup bowls with a dollop of crème fraiche and sugar cookies or sweet crackers like grahams. Served this way it makes a wonderful summer dessert.

Cool Cantaloupe Soup

A great hot weather refresher.

Ingredients:

4 cups cantaloupe (1/4 – 1/2 melon, depending on size)

1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 Tablespoon honey

1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

1 cup diced cucumber (1 cucumber)

1/2 cups minced fresh parsley

1 cup minced fresh arugula

Croutons (for top) and extra sour cream

Directions:

In food processor, combine cantaloupe, freshly grated ginger, fresh squeezed lemon, salt and honey. Process till smooth; add sour cream. Transfer to bowl and chill.

Peel and dice the cucumber. Mince parsley and arugula. Stir into soup just before serving. Adjust seasonings (salt, lemon & honey) to suit your taste.

Serve topped with croutons.

Serves 3 to 4.

Note: For an interesting presentation, use hollowed-out cantaloupe rinds as bowls. With a sharp knife, cut a thin slice off the bottom of each cantaloupe half so that it sits flat. When removing fruit from each half, leave about 3/4 inch of cantaloupe around the edges of the rind to create the cantaloupe bowls.

Blueberry Soup

Summer comfort food at its best, this soup is more of a dessert. You could also serve it as an appetizer.

Ingredients:

1 cup water

1 / 2 cup sweet red wine

1 quart blueberries

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 / 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 / 2 teaspoon ground cloves

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups milk

3 / 4 cup sour cream

fresh berries, for garnish

8 ounces egg noodles

Directions:

Clean and rinse the berries.

Bring water and wine to a boil. Stir in the blueberries, sugar, and spices; return to boil, and cook about five minutes, until the berries have begun to split and soften. Remove from heat and puree in blender or food processor. With a fork, blend the cornstarch with the sour cream and a small amount of milk — this prevents the sour cream from curdling when mixed with the hot soup. Stir into the berries, along with the rest of the milk. Return to pot; while stirring with a whisk, bring back to a boiling point. Remove from heat, and chill.

Cook wide egg noodles according to package directions; drain. Place noodles in soup bowls, and top with soup. Or, serve with croutons or biscuits. Serve with additional cream or milk, if desired, and garnish with a cup of fresh berries.

Serves 2 to 4.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com, yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on

Facebook as Author Yvona Fast.

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