For a little taste of Sevilla, here’s a recipe for Granddaddy’s Gazpacho. Load up on the garlic. After tasting this brew, you’ll have full summer protection from vampires. LOL.
It’s July and tomatoes are being harvested from gardens everywhere. Gazpacho, the simple tomato based soup served cold, is a popular summer dish which originated in southern Spain. It’s now served worldwide with variations that range from having a melon base to adding ingredients that make lovers of hot & spicy break out in a sweat. I’m lucky because I grew up with the original – the authentic version of gazpacho. This recipe came from Andalucia with my grandfather. It’s a simple use of fresh ingredients with a Spanish flare (garlic, vinegar and more garlic).
My grandfather, Luis Leon Granados (known as Lui) was from Seville. I was one of his thirty grandchildren, and like my cousins – I remember Granddaddy’s gazpacho. He gave me his recipe when I was a young adult, long after he was agile enough to work a huge garden and can tomatoes in the summer. We sat at his kitchen table when he was in his 80s and he dictated the recipe to me. I still have the original handwritten copy with the side notes – “garlic is the key” and “soak stale bread in water – but don’t add extra water” and “use Spanish olive oil if you can get it.”
He told me he came up with the recipe by watching his mother make gazpacho the way it’s made in Andalusia – a simple tomato base with lots of garlic served cold with vegetable sides added in by individual diners at the table. My mother liked the tomatoes and cucumbers- but not the onions, and most of us kids chose sides sparingly but loaded up on the croutons. Granddaddy added one of everything to his gazpacho, and ate it in a giant-sized Blue Willow bowl complimented with hard crusted bread.
I thought gazpacho was unique to our family, until I went to Clyde’s of Georgetown restaurant in Columbia when I was in my early twenties. I saw gazpacho on the menu. With great anticipation I ordered it, and was let down when I was presented with the cup-sized jumble of veggies in a sparse tomato base covered with finely chopped onions with a fountain of chives sprouting atop. No offense to Clyde’s. That chef was a culinary master and his gazpacho reflected his expertise. But to me it was like putting make up on the Mona Lisa.
I’ve since seen many versions of gazpacho, most with diced vegetable in the base – sometimes it’s spicy with a Mexican flare, but mostly it’s over-made – over dramatized – and it never seems to have enough garlic for my taste.
I can’t even bring myself to comment about melon based gazpacho. Geez, that like having melon based ketchup. I can’t even get my head around it.
Granddaddy’s Gazpacho – step by step
The ingredients are basic- Olive oil, salt, garlic, red wine vinegar, bread, water, cucumbers, peppers and fresh tomatoes.
I used to make this in a “very average” kitchen blender. Recently I bought a Ninja blender. OMGosh! Life – and gazpacho making – are so much better now. If you can afford it, get one.
Peel the Tomatoes
Start by peeling the tomatoes. A scald in boiling water followed by immersion in cold water will allow the skin to fall off with a little coaxing from a paring knife. This year we had the small Roma tomatoes so I used a wire egg basket to drop the tomatoes into the boil and lift them out easily.
If you’re using large tomatoes, then chop them after they’re peeled so they can be fed into the blender. You’ll set the tomatoes aside while you mix the other ingredients that make up the base.
Making the Base of the Gazpacho
3/4 cups olive oil
5 to 6 cloves of garlic
1/2 fresh cucumber
1/2 fresh green pepper
1 Tbs salt
4 slices wet bread
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
Add 3/4 cup of Spanish olive oil and 5 to 6 cloves of garlic to the blender and blend until garlic disappears. Amount of garlic varies depending on taste. The garlic gives gazpacho its “kick.” For me …. I could add ten cloves and be happy. But that’s too strong for most people. With 5 to 6 you can taste it, but it doesn’t overpower.
Next add the half cucumber and half green pepper to the mixture in the blender. Too much of either of these vegetables will overpower the taste. If you plan to can the gazpacho, leave out the green pepper. It doesn’t preserve well and leaves a bitter taste. Peppers are presented when serving at the table as vegetables to add in.
Next add 4 slices of wet bread to the vegetable mixture in the blender. I use 12 grain bread I’ve laid in purified water (bottled water). Soak the bread heavily until it almost falls apart. Slide the wet slices into a bowl and then dump into the blender. Don’t add any additional water other than what is clinging to the bread.
Add one Tablespoon of salt and blend thoroughly.
Puree the Tomatoes
The vegetable mixture in the blender should be a thick yellow / greenish mixture. Empty this into a large bowl (4 quart), big enough to accommodate the entire batch of gazpacho. Then add 2 quarts – or 9 cups of tomatoes to the empty blender and puree.
Add one Tablespoon of red wine vinegar to the tomato puree. Blend. (you may have to do this in two shifts if your blender cannot accommodate all the tomatoes.
Mix the Tomato Puree with the Vegetable Mixture
Gradually add the tomato puree to the vegetable puree. Mix thoroughly with a large spoon.
Once everything is mixed, taste the gazpacho. Add vinegar and salt as needed. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving. Serve up cold with finely chopped side garnishes that are added individually at the table according to each diner’s taste preferences.
This recipe makes about 3 quarts of gazpacho.
Garnishes – finely chopped:
- red, green, yellow peppers
- croutons ….. croutons … .croutons (everybody loves croutons)
I’ve been canning gazpacho in 1 quart jars for years. I follow the process detailed in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning and Freezing for canning tomatoes. One quart is just enough for Dan and me if we’re having gazpacho as our meal. As a side dish, 1 quart can feed four people.
I make the recipe above over and over until I’ve run out of tomatoes. I don’t double the recipe or try to make a large batch at once. When I finish each round of the recipe, I empty the gazpacho for that recipe into three 1 quart jars. I repeat the recipe until all the tomatoes I have for that year are gone. This year, Dan brought in almost a bushel of tomatoes from his garden, and it made 17 quarts. Once all the jars are filled, I process them in the canner.
- Have the jars clean and equipment all ready before you begin peeling the tomatoes. Once your mixing ingredients in the blender you must move quickly and get the gazpacho either canned or in the refrigerator.
- Leave almost an inch of room at the top of the jar. The bread causes the mixture to expand during canning.
- Don’t use green pepper if you’re going to can the gazpacho. It leaves an aftertaste.
- The shelf life is about the same as for a jar of canned tomatoes. Some separation of the oil can occur in the jar. A light shake of the jar before pouring works. Be sure the jar is tightly sealed before shaking.
My Grandfather – the man who passed on the recipe
This recipe has brought so much joy to my family – and my extended family. Gazpacho is one of those foods that stirs the memory, in my case, memories of my grandfather, his house on the Patuxent River, his kitchen and his pride in being Spanish. My children have different memories of this gazpacho, and my grandchildren will have their own in time.
I thank Lui and his mother, Maria Concepcion (known to us as “Abuela”) for starting us all on this special food from their homeland, and connecting us to it through food and traditions.