The Family Cookbook
Culinary Heirlooms
Frog Eye Soup
by Doug Anderson
Reprinted from Bulletin 86, February 1, 2004

       Today's recipe seems to have many authors. It also seems to have evolved over time, like the poor animal who had to sacrifice its eyes for the making of it. Let's hope PETA is not reading today's column.
        Today's recipe might be a bit of a stretch for some of you, but remember to keep an open mind and keep in mind that no REAL frogs were harmed in the making of it.

(Fruit Soup or Sweet Soup, for anyone too grown up to relish "frog eyes")

2 cups mixed dried fruit (12-oz. pkg.) such as currants, raisins, prunes, pears, apricots, peaches, apples [Grandma used about a pound of prunes and a hefty proportion of raisins; nothing else; I just now used a 12-oz. pkg. of prunes plus 1 cup of raisins, which is 1/3 more fruit than Betty Crocker's recipe.]

3 cups water (half grape juice may be used) [I used half Concord grape juice and I didn't increase the liquid, even though I used 1/3 more fruit.]

1/2 lemon, sliced [Lemon is optional. I skipped it.]

1/4 to 1/2 cup Big Pearl Tapioca [These are the frog eyes, so hunt up the great BIG ones, not those little sissy frog egg versions used in most tapioca puddings, and don't be stingy! I used 1/4 cup and added another 1/4 cup later. The instructions on my tapioca box say to soak the tapioca in water for at least three hours first. Kathlyn says no, but I didn't and wished I had, so I cooked 1/4 cup more that had been soaked and added them later. "Eyes" can have too hard centers if not soaked first and they can also cook away to nothing.]

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar [I used the lesser amount with the sweet grape juice.]

1 stick cinnamon [I used 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon instead.]

Mix ingredients and cook [simmer!], covered, until fruits are tender (about 30 to 40 min.) [You might want to give the prunes head start on the raisins, or soak them first.] Serve either hot or cold. (Amount: about 4 servings.) [I ended up with a quart of "frog eye soup" ... more like 10-12 servings, IMO.]

I'm sure my mother and grandmother made it in bigger batches, but this "soup" is so rich and sweet that you can't eat very much of it at a time and I would have considered it more like a dessert sauce or a light snack than a cocktail "appetizer." I wonder whether we used to pour some cream over it sometimes to cut the richness. It also goes good on plain oatmeal porridge, in place of fruit and sugar in winter ... as I discovered this very morning.

Someday, I'm going to try making it with fresh plums and grapes instead of prunes and raisins, though the basic idea was to serve this in winter when there was little or no good fresh, canned or frozen fruit available in Norway.

P.S. I put some Sweet Soup in the freezer and froze it ... and thawed it, as a test. Freezing and thawing a sample seemed to have little or no effect, so I think I'll save some of it for later. Let's face it, this is not a delicate dish!

From Kathlyn Anderson:
Here are some notes from my Sweet Soup making...

Cook the dry fruit in water 2 to 3 inches deeper than the fruit for approximately 1 hour. Then sprinkle pearl tapioca on top -- lots of it -- we love frog eyes -- making sure there is enough liquid for the tapioca to cook in. (Contrary to what the package says, we do NOT soak the tapioca prior to putting it in the sweet soup.) Let it cook until each pearl is mostly clear, a little bit of white makes the "eye," but you don't want it tough or dry inside. (Different brands cook differently. Sometimes you find a good one; seldom do you get a choice.) Sometimes I stir them a bit, but I try to keep them on top of the fruit during this stage so they don't stick to the bottom of the kettle.

At the last add grape juice, wine or brandy (if desired), and sugar, lemon & orange if desired, cloves, cinnamon. Frozen grape & cranberry juice concentrate add a nice concentration of flavor.

Making sweet soup this way requires much tasting and adjusting to get it just perfect for this year. I love to cook sweet soup! Somewhere I read about the addition of a can of pitted sweet cherries to be added. I haven't tried this, but I think it would be good.

Dad always liked to have the prunes with pits. I'm sure that was his quirk ... best check with Beaver on this.

        Well, now, how about that?  Not your every day recipe, granted, but I personally can't wait to try it. Thanks, Jerrianne, Kathlyn, Betty and anyone else involved in this unique and unusual recipe.
        My recipe file is now officially empty, so if you have any lying around, please DO send them along!  See you next week, hopefully. Bon Appétit!

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