That holidays are marked by food is a (very delicious) given. But every culture, every community, every family has its own traditional dishes — and for Bianca Sanon, the Miami-based sommelier curating this month’s Eater Wine Club wines, that beloved holiday dish is soup joumou.
Soup joumou is a pumpkin-based soup typically eaten to mark Haitian Independence Day, when Haiti gained its independence from French colonial rule, which happens to be January 1. “The story I was told as a child is that we eat pumpkin soup because it was the soup that only the slave masters were allowed to eat, and enslaved people were forbidden to eat it,” says Sanon, who grew up in South Florida in a Haitian-American family. “So, to celebrate independence, the first meal the freed Haitians ate was this soup.”
Sanon’s Haitian heritage informs much of her family’s eating, she says: “We spoke French, Creole sometimes, and ate more traditional Haitian meals at home.” Around the holidays, that includes griot, bannann (which Sanon describes as “kind of like tostones, but a Haitian version of it”), lambi (a Haitian conch stew), and — if her aunt goes all out — a whole roast pork. “It’s always way too much food and we have to eat until New Year’s,” says Sanon.
Then, come New Year’s Day, it’s time for soup joumou, which is not only historically tied to the day, but also happens to pair nicely with the Champagne or cava you may have lying around that weekend. “Bubbles with such a rich and fatty dish would be perfect,” says Sanon.
As for Sanon’s soup joumou, “There are so many variations and iterations of this recipe, and every family seems to add their own touch to it, but this one is my grandma’s from an old Haitian cookbook [Cuisine Sélectionnée] that my aunt still has and uses all the time,” she says. Below, Sanon shares a translation of her family’s recipe.
Soupe au Giraumon/Soup Joumou
1-2 large sour oranges (pomelos and/or mandarin oranges would work in their place)
1 pound chicken breast
1 pound beef shank
1 piece pork belly
1 tablespoon rendered pork fat
A few carrots and leeks
1 medium-sized cabbage
1 head celery
½ pound pumpkin
½ pound vermicelli or 1 cup rice
1 medium-sized onion, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vinegar
Step 1: Rub the meat with sour orange, then season it with the juice from the orange and a handful of coarse salt, letting it sit for at least 30 minutes.
Step 2: Using a large stockpot or heavy-bottom pot, add the meat with 3 to 4 liters of warm water. Let it boil, skim off the top, then when the meat has softened, add the vegetables directly to the pot, then the pumpkin. While the mixture is simmering, add in the cloves.
Step 3: When the pumpkin is cooked through, remove from the pot and blend it using a blender. Then pass it through a colander. Return the pumpkin puree to the pot, then add the noodles or rice, plus salt and pepper.
Step 4: When the soup is almost done, brown the sliced onion in a spoonful of oil, add the butter and vinegar, and then mix it in with the soup.