Soup Joumou: Historic Haitian Dish Flavors the New Year
By Tina Machele Brown
A Soup with a Strong Symbol
As 2017 quickly approaches, many people are preparing for lavish parties, family gatherings, and setting new goals. Yet if you know your Haitian history like Chef Elle Philippe, you are shopping for fresh ingredients for Soup Joumou, a Haitian tradition. Kim Haas, founder of Los Afro-Latinos, had the honor of observing this culinary artist prepare a soup with a strong symbol.
Greeted with a smile from Chef Philippe, Kim’s senses were immediately aroused. This food connoisseur had already seasoned the meat and the aroma filled the room. Kim was honored to be in the elegant New Jersey home of Chef Philippe as she created this soup with knives, spoons, pots, pans, and passion. Seamlessly moving from station to station, cutting vegetables, tossing them here and there, Kim was eager to discuss the history of the soup which consists of a striking array of colorful vegetables including the main ingredient – pumpkin.
Roots from the garden are very robust and the natural ingredients in Soup Joumou aid in its symbol of strength among Haitians. Joumou is a delicious, sweet-smelling pumpkin that was a delicacy for white French masters. As slaves, Haitians were not allowed to drink Soup Joumou. However, on January 1, 1804, Haitians regained their freedom from the French after a twelve-year battle and the soup symbolized liberation and the world’s first and only successful slave revolt resulting in an independent nation. The celebration of preparing, sharing, and eating Soup Joumou, became an annual tradition. Now, every year, on New Year’s Day (Haitian Independence Day), Haitians celebrate with this tasty soup.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Chef Philippe knows first-hand the Haitian history of Soup Joumou. While slicing onions, potatoes, leeks and other vegetables, she spoke of partaking in this once forbidden treat as a child. Though far away, Chef Philippe is forever connected to Haiti. Sharing the history of this soup ensures that the roots will continue to stay grounded in the people and the New Year’s tradition will carry on. Chef Philippe is passionate about cooking and as a master chef, she has a natural instinct for paring the perfect seasonings and ingredients for flavor, color, smell, and taste.
As the pumpkin was cooking, Chef Philippe mixed the other ingredients such as garlic, celery, parsley, and the bouquet of smells filled the air. She mixed in the cooked vegetables and other ingredients to perfection, she then ladled up a scoop for a taste-test. Kim’s taste buds began to tingle with excitement.
After more than 200 years, Haitians continue to celebrate their freedom every year on New Year’s day with Soup Joumou. A soup that is made with many ingredients from the earth, rooted in the knowledge that together we are stronger.
Chef Philippe’s Soup Joumou
Start With: 2 lbs of pumpkin squash–kaboucha, substitute: butternut squash and lots more good stuff Preparation time: marinate meat overnight, 45 minutes-prep time, cooking time-1 hr 30 minutes.
Marinate the meat the Night before
2 lbs of beef marinated overnight with
3 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 tsp of thyme
1 tsp of fresh black pepper
1 medium shallot
1/4 tsp scotch bonnet
juice of 2 lime
1 tbsp of kosher salt
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Ahead of Time:
beef leg bones: 2-3 lbs, cut into 2” pieces
2 stalks of celery
parsley, salt, and pepper to taste
Boil for 1 hour, add enough water for 12 cups of stock or substitute store-bought, sodium-free stock.
2 lbs of pumpkin squash–kaboucha, substitute: butternut squash
4 big carrots, medium slices
3 celery stalks, cut in medium cubes
2 medium leeks, cut lengthwise, in 2 pieces, half or third the length
2 medium turnips, peel, cut in medium cubes
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut in medium cubes
1 lb cabbage, sliced & cut in med. sizes
12 cups of beef stock or store-bought sodium-free stock
2 tbsp of olive oil
- Prepare your mise-en-place, clean, and peel all your vegetables.
- In a large pot, add marinated beef with the olive oil,
add 2 cups of cold water, cook over medium heat for 30 minutes.
- Cut squash into 3-4” wedges. While the meat is cooking in a medium pot in 6 cups of slightly salted cold water. Cook pumpkin for about 30 minutes on medium heat, covered. Drain, remove pumpkin from peel, puree and set aside.
- Add pumpkin puree, simmer for 15 minutes.
- Note: The soup broth should not be thick, after adding the Joumou puree you can always add more beef stock.
- Adjust seasoning, salt and fresh black pepper to taste.
We hope you season your new year with a taste of history. Enjoy!