Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Patent Soup.

From time to time in newspapers and blogs one sees episodes of fuss and bother, and righteous indignation, and threats of legal action over “ownership” of recipes. I don’t know anything about intellectual property law, but my personal belief is that every recipe is built on all of those that have gone before - that they are things of adaptation and evolution, not absolute innovation. I uderstand that it is not possible to patent a recipe nowadays.

‘Twas not always so, it seems. On May 2, 1865, James W. Huckins, of Boston, Massachusetts claimed Patent Number 47, 545 for his “Improved Tomato Soup.” The mid-nineteenth century was a time of increasing use of the tomato, and great advances in the canning industry. Mr Huckins claims his soup as suitable for immediate use for the table, or for canning. His application included the recipe, which makes rather a large amount, and is really for a vegetable soup based on beef broth. He does claim its keeping qualities (not specifying the canned variety), which seems dangerously optimistic today.

Here is his recipe:

Take a stock boiler twenty gallons. Put into it fifty pound of beef-shin to fourteen gallons of cold water. Boil it, partly uncovered, for fourteen hours. After the water has partly boiled away add a little hot water from time to time as it may require. After it has boiled the required time, take it from the fire and add to it one quart of cold water. Afterward let it stand for ten minutes. Next, skim off all the fat and strain the liquor from the meat through a fine sieve and we shall have nearly seven gallons of the liquor. Should there be more than seven gallons of the liquor, boil it down to the required quantity, but should there be less, add the difference in hot water. This is called “stock”. Next, take one bushel and a half of tomatoes, put them into a boiler, mash them up a little, and let them boil in their own liquor for one hour and a half. Next, strain them through a fine sieve – fine enough to stop the seeds and the skins. All the rest of the tomato must go throught the sieve, after which we shall have about six gallons of the tomato liquor. If more than six gallons, boil it down to such an amount. If less, add more tomato. Next, mix the stock and the prepared tomato together, and keep the mixture somewhat under a boiling temperature until wanted for further action. Next prepare the following vegetables: Peel and weigh one pound and a half of onions, the same amount of turnips, one pound and three-quarters of carrots, and one pound of beets. Chop them all together until quite fine. Next take a soup-boiler that will hold sixteen gallons. Put into it three and a half pounds of butter. Next, add the chopped vegetables. Put the boiler on a hot fire, and cook the vegetables well. Next add to them three and one quarter pounds of flour, and thoroughly mix the whole together while hot. Next, take the boiler from the fire and let it cool a little. Next, add one ounce of black pepper, one-half pound of fine salt, and three-quarters of a pound of brown sugar. Mix the whole well together, and add the mixture of beef stock and tomato. The composition must now be well stirred for about ten minutes, and afterward put on the fire and stirred until it may boil. Continue to let it boil, and skim it for about five minutes, after which strain it through a fine sieve, but do not press the vegetables through the sieve. The composition will then be ready for the table, or for being hermetically sealed in cans. The amount of the preparation (which I term “tomato soup”) so made will be about thirteen gallons. It is a composition containing preservative qualities, which will prevent it from decomposition for a great length of time.
I claim –
The composition made in manner and materials substantially as herein before specified.

Quotation for the Day.

I think that women just have a primeval instinct to make soup, which they will try to foist on anybody who looks like a likely candidate.
Dylan Moran.


Doddie said...

Wow, look at the measurements of the ingredients for that soup. I guess it makes sense if the homemaker would can it for later. It does sound delicious. I'm already thinking how to prepare it small-scale. :)

KT said...

Well, 13 gallons is 208 cups! Enough to last more than a month if a family of 6 ate it every day... Methinks they'd be sick of it long before that, regardless of how good it is...

word verification: spriumpf. it's like "humpf!" but more "sprightly."

EB said...

It is possible to patent a recipe if it's called a 'formula' a la Coca Cola. Weird right?

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Doddie and KT - yes, it is a vast amount of soup - perhaps it was intended for commercial preparation?
EB - an interesting thought - I have no idea if that is the "secret". A recipe is more than a list of ingredients however, - slight changes in method can make a big difference to the outcome, so I guess the method would have to be patented too?