Warm and spicy or chilled and crisp, fruit soups fit the role of starter and dessert equally well based on how you sweeten and season them. As a soup ingredient, fruits differ from vegetables mainly in sugar content; you can use the same classic soup-making techniques -- puree, reduction and cream -- to make fruit-based soups with few minor changes. Before you start, rinse the fruits and remove any seeds or stems. To garnish a fruit soup, steep dried fruit in it until plump, fortify it with a splash of liqueur or top it with diced fresh fruit.
Cream-based fruit soup isn't far removed from fresh fruit garnished with a dollop of fresh cream. Start with classic cream accompaniments, such as peaches, strawberries and blueberries, and build the soup from there. You can serve cream-based soups warm or chilled.
Heat equal parts cream and whole milk and your choice of whole spices in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Add soft fruits, such as berries, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add sugar to taste and cook another 10 minutes; adjust the consistency with milk or kefir, and add fresh herbs to taste.
Pureed fruit soups follow the same formula as pureed vegetable soups: Cook, puree, strain if desired, add fat and season to taste. Fibrous fruits, such as mangoes and pears, make thick bases; you can strain them through a sieve and they'll still be thick enough. Don't strain purees made with high-moisture fruits, such as berries and watermelon.
After simmering, puree the fruit and press it through a sieve if needed. Add sugar, salt and spices to taste and cook over medium-low for about 10 minutes. Finish with heavy cream or sour cream.
Reduction-based fruit soups start with a one or more fruit juices, fruits and sugar cooked over low heat until it coats the back of a spoon; you can bolster the base with jam and preserves if needed, and strain the pulp out of the base. After you make the base, add spices and chopped fresh fruit -- firm fruits, such as pears and apples work well -- and poach it until it tender, about 10 minutes. Add a touch of liqueur or dessert wine, such as port, to taste and garnish with creme fraiche.
Several fruit soups have stood the test of time and become regional classics. Mustikkakeitto, a warm, Finnish soup, is a pureed-and-strained blueberry soup cooked with sugar, cinnamon and a touch of lemon juice until thickened and garnished with fresh cream. Alsatian cherry soup, commonly served in France on Christmas Eve, is a reduction-based black cherry soup. Cook black cherries with sugar until they reduce by half, add cherry liqueur to taste and thicken with cornstarch, if needed. Serve with toasted brioche.
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