Haitian Soup Joumou
Also known as Squash Soup. Growing up I remembered eating soup Joumou every year on 1st January, Haiti’s Independence Day. This soup is very special to Haitians because it is a reminder of their struggles and victory against the French colonizers. During this colonial period, the French enslaved the Haitians. They were not allowed to enjoy this soup as it was only to be prepared for their masters. Since gaining their independence from the French on 1st January 1804, the newly freed Haitian celebrated their freedom with Soup Joumou.
The soup is one of the most savored food as it is a rarity. It is served with fresh bread or bread rolls. It is extremely filling and is deliciously prepared to one’s taste. The base for the soup is squash. It is filled with vegetable and is very hearty and meaty.
The soup preparation starts with the seasoning of the meat drenched in spices for hours before cooking. Once the cooking starts, you could smell the sensational flavors from down the streets.
As a child, I recalled the women’s enjoyment when cooking this dish. It was like getting ready for a wedding party. Women were in and out of the kitchen, unloading their shopping bags, with music in the background, lots of laughter, love, and patience. The ambience was full of pride and joy as they celebrated the freedom that they fought so hard for.
This celebratory dish marked a unique experience that was shared with Haitians families and non-Haitians friends and colleagues. The cookery would start the night before and would be ready to eat the next day. Friends and family would gather to marvel in the feast. The rest of the day was very relaxed and quiet as visitors went home. The host and family would then go to sleep with a full belly and a smile on their faces.
The soup is prepared in stages and is a family affair. Each woman is given a different task, someone would be peeling vegetables, another will be dicing each vegetable. Another person is entrusted to make sure the liquid wasn’t too low while the meat cooks. Another made sure the vegetables were included in proper order of density and cooking time. All the ingredients are combined onto a massive pot enough to feed an army. Then starts the slow cooking process which takes place overnight. Thin spaghetti noodles are the final ingredient to be added the next day, before the cook is complete.
According to Food and Wine magazines, below is the stovetop recipe. Based on the number of guests, you’ll need to adjust the quantities.
- In a medium-size or large-size bowl, season the meat with salt and pepper, garlic, sage, 1 lemon or lime juice, and parsley. Marinate for 6-8 hours or overnight.
- Transfer the meat with the marinating liquid to a 5-quart deep pan. Add 8 cups of water and cook on medium-high covering the pan halfway. Cook the meat for 2 hours. Be sure to check the water quantity so it does not dry. Add more water if needed as the meat cooks. In the end, you should have about 2 cups of water left with the meat. Reduce the heat to low.
- Meanwhile, cook the squash until fork through (about 35 minutes). Remove the squash from the heat, cut in half, remove the seeds, and cut into small pieces. Feel free to leave the skin on.
- Place the squash the blender, blend until liquify with cups of vegetable broth and 2 cups of water.
- Pour the mixture into the meat, stir.
- Add the bouillon paste and vegetables, cook for 10 minutes. Stir constantly.
- Add the juice from the other lemon or lime, then add the noodles.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Stir.
- Serve warm with bread.