"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

August 27, 2011

Louis Bromfield's "Vegetable Compound"

"Vegetable Compound" on the left and straight tomato juice on the right.
It was the agrarian and back-to-the-land writings of Louis Bromfield put into practice at his Malabar Farm outside of Mansfield, Ohio that prompted my grandparents to flee the New Jersey suburbs in post-war 1946 to a farm in New Hampshire. His writings, such as Pleasant Valley, have likewise inspired us and we've made a few pilgrimages to Malabar Farm over the years.

Louis Bromfield at his famous farmstand at Malabar Farm [Mansfield Tourism].

In a recent browse through some favorite cookbooks I came upon this recipe for his famous "Dr. Bromfield's Special Vegetable Compound and Celery Tonic" in Heartland–The Best of the Old and The New from Midwest Kitchens, one of several cookbooks by Marcia Adams [Clarkson Potter: 1991]. She was one of the second wave of television foodies, at the end of Julia's era, in the late 1980s with her PBS show, Cooking from Quilt Country, among others. I never saw it back in the day but would have enjoyed it. I have all of her cookbooks and they are beautifully photographed with excellent Midwestern fare and food history. [Sadly, in looking for her website I found her obituary.]

I liked that we didn't have to peel the tomatoes, first! Just chop and simmer.

The only thing I did differently was to add some spare lettuce leaves that I had kicking around the fridge (as well as the spinach). And, I doubled the recipe and got about 12 quarts. A Victorio® Food Strainer is ideal for making tomato juice, sauce, catsup and other things: we will use the special pumpkin attachment to do butternut squash and pumpkin puree in October. You could use a Foley® Food Mill but it would take much longer. My chickens enjoy all of the waste, which is minimal, that is forced out when you turn the crank.

The pure tomato juice was made with a lot of flavorful heirloom tomatoes.

We also made basic tomato juice by boiling down the tomatoes and putting them through the strainer. My husband had requested it. However, I'm fairly certain he will want me to put more of this special juice up next year. At the very least I think he'll appreciate a Bloody Mary made with it!

I made this juice with the following local ingredients, too: tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic and my own Italian parsley. That was gratifying in itself!

Louis Bromfield's Tomato Juice (aka "V-9")

  • 1 peck tomatoes (about 17 lbs.)
  • 1 bunch celery (tops and all)
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 4 medium onions
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 2 green or red bell peppers
  • 1 large bunch fresh spinach (and I added lettuce, too)
  • 1 large bunch fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsps. mustard seed
  • 2 Tbsps. sugar
  • 2 Tbsps. salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I used a few shakes of Tabasco and also added fresh ground pepper)
Wash, core and chop the tomatoes very coarsely. Clean and coarsely chop the rest of the vegetables. Divide all the vegetables and remaining ingredients between two large, deep kettles (this is especially important if you double it). The recipes says it makes about 4-5 quarts but I got 13 when I doubled it.

You press the softened mixture through the strainer and it separates the good stuff from the chaff.

Cover and bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are completely softened. Stir once or twice, if needed. Let stand until just cool enough to handle, but still very hot. Force the mixture through a sieve or food mill then return the juice to the kettles and reheat if necessary.

Pour the hot juice into hot pint or quart jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Seal and process in a hot-water bath for 40 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts. [I did this for 15 minutes only at a boil, then another 15 minutes sitting in the hot water with the lid on; it may be that with the added low-acid vegetables the cookbook writers were advised to err on the side of caution––after all, I was canning with my Mennonite friend Anna who has been doing this all of her life.

Remove jars to a towel-covered rack to cool; store in a dark place.

You come back when you're ready! 



  1. Great looking recipe. Can't wait to try it.

  2. Looks so yummy! I'm not a big Bloody Mary fan but I bet I would be with this special concoction.

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  6. My family visited Malabar Farm and the Produce Stand every summer. Fond memories <3.

  7. Karen! Thank you! I'd forgotten I'd even blogged about this. The other day I was bemoaning that I hadn't written the "V-9" variation of Marcia Adams recipe in HEARTLAND as we ran out a year ago (I made a lot in 2011 and 2012). It makes the best healthy tonic throughout the winter AND the best bloody Marys, too! Your post today was a great reminder that I'm not completely losing my mind.

  8. PS My husband also likes to warm it up for soup in his thermos during the winter.


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