27 April 2011

The Holy Grail of Soups - Tomato-Cheese, Part 2

The plot thickens, my friends. More than a year ago, I posted about my ongoing quest to find the recipe for the tomato soup served in Eugene, Oregon's Glenwood Cafe.

The soup is tangy and perfectly seasoned, but its mystery lies in its shredded cheese - which never melts, no matter how hot the soup.

Just a few weeks ago, a new comment appeared on that post. Seems someone else was sleuthing for the recipe and found my blog. She had a hot tip to share. Had I tried soaking the cheese in vinegar first? It is known to change the structure (proteins, reportedly) of the cheese and keep it from melting.

And so, I tried. I grated some Tillamook cheddar, put it into a bowl and covered it with apple cider vinegar in the morning. And then I waited. After work, I tasted a few shreds. Bouncier - more like cheese curds. Hmm.

I also wanted to experiment with this recipe for tomato soup, which I'm sure is fabulous if done correctly, but which I proceeded to alter (no chicken stock, no cream) and burn (as I worked on laundry and talked to my friend on the phone. Not a good combo).

But the cheese - it held its shape! I stirred it in to the pot about 10 minutes before serving, cranked the heat to medium (Not for more char taste, but to test the vinegar-cheese theory). And it worked! Even today, after reheating in the microwave for 2 minutes, the shreds stay intact.

This may be the trick. However, the soup tasted very vinegary. I'm not sure if this was due to the vinegar-soaked cheese. Next time I will try sweeter balsamic, as the comment suggested. But I had also stirred a couple Tbsp of balsamic vinegar in to the soup pot to counteract the burned taste...could be the culprit.

But, we may be on to something, so stay tuned! And send recipes for tomato-basil soups you think I should try as my base, if you would...Thanks!


  1. I was looking for the recipe myself! I'm a Eugene native living out of town and the soup...it's missed.

    Good to know about the cheese. A rice vinegar might be a mild one to try, too.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Thanks, Hillary! I tried this again tonight... Check out the latest post for the update!

  3. I worked at the cafe for 4 years in college. It has always made me laugh how many people have tried to figure this mystery out. I was told the recipe actually came out of an old well known cookbook and brought to the restaurant in its early days by a customer. It became so popular it became a staple. I know the recipe but sorry, not gonna tell. Jackie is an amazing woman and proprietor of this legendary place and I'd never betray her secrets, besides what fun would that be? I will say that vinegar is not the answer.

  4. @Anonymous - the mystery continues! Love it. Thanks!!

  5. Stumbled in like everyone else looking for a recipe. God, I miss Eugene and The Glenwood. To further the rumor mill. I heard they used frozen string cheese. Might try that. As per Anonymous suggestions above, I checked out the Joy of Cooking Tomato Soup recipe and am going to try that. We shall see.

  6. I don't want to burst your cheese bubble :) but it is made with vegetarian cheese not really cheese at all :)

  7. The ideas keep coming in! I am curious about the frozen cheese idea... hadn't thought of that, but it makes sense in terms of the non-melting quality. The "not really cheese" comment has me really curious though. If it's not really cheese, what is it? Are we talking vegan cheese, like soy or almond or similar? In a day of allergies and intolerances, it would surprise me if they didn't disclose... Anyone have more scoop?

  8. I am a former eugenian and I am pregnant and having aggressive cravings for this soup. I just asked my mom. To freeze some and mail it to me, but a recipe would be much easier. If anyone has one would you be willing to share?

  9. @Anonymous - ha!!! Let me know if you find the recipe before me! And good luck with your pregnancy!