My Grandmother’s Cold Fruit Soup

photo taken by Karen P, on October 25, 2008, CC licensing

From Jewish Holiday Cooking:

A Food Lover's Classics and Improvisations

by Jayne Cohen

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

To my grandmother, tiny, first-of-the-year strawberries were the luxury foods of her adopted country, meant to be savored slowly, open-faced on fresh corn-rye bread thickly spread with sweet butter and sprinkled with sugar. Not for her those seasonless behemoths whose hard white hearts you need an apple corer to remove.

Later on, as June warmed and local strawberries grew more plentiful and cheaper at her fruit market, Grandma would serve them with thick sour cream or heavy sweet cream, roll them in a blintz, and even, for special occasions like Shavuot, add them to an extravagant fruit soup.

This soup has several layers of flavor, derived from the tea, juice, and many kinds of fruit--fresh and dried--used in it. But it is the sweet melting strawberries that make it taste extraordinary.

  • 2 cups freshly brewed black tea such as orange pekoe, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, or English Breakfast
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, peaches, pears, or apples, or a mixture, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or more, as needed
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 strip lemon zest
  • 3 to 4 pounds mixed fresh ripe stone fruits such as peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, and cherries, peeled if skin is tough or blemished, pitted, and cut into chunks (3 to 4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh ripe strawberries (9 to 10 ounces), rinsed, hulled, and halved, or quartered if large, or a mixture of strawberries and raspberries, plus 6 to 8 strawberry halves or 6 to 8 raspberries for garnish
  • 2 cups unsweetened apple-cranberry juice (or a similar slightly tart fruit juice)
  • 1 cup sour cream, whole-milk Greek-style yogurt or labneh (plain yogurt is too watery here), plus additional for garnish

Optional garnish: 6 to 8 fresh mint leaves

Combine the tea, prunes and other dried fruit, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and lemon zest in a large, nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the fruit is very soft.
Add the fresh fruit, berries, and apple-cranberry juice. Bring the mixture back to a boil, then simmer until all of the fresh fruit is quite soft, about 10 minutes.

Let the mixture cool somewhat, then taste, and if necessary, stir in more honey. Remove the vanilla bean and if desired rinse and dry it for another use. Discard the cinnamon and lemon zest.
Using a slotted spoon, remove about half the fruit from the saucepan, and puree it in a blender or food processor. Transfer the pureed fruit to a large bowl and whisk in the sour cream. Stir in the remaining fruit and liquid from the saucepan. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt cream, a berry, and a mint leaf, if desired.

Sephardic or Askhenazi