Pumpkin Soup (Soup Joumjou)

Serves     8-10


For the marinade:

2 pounds stewing beef cut into bite-size cubes
1 lime or lemon, juiced
2 scallions, chopped
1 small scotch bonnet peeper or habanero pepper, whole, not chopped
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves smashed garlic
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

For the soup:

3 pounds calabaza pumpkin or butternut squash
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 leek, sliced thinly
2 celery stalks, cut in ½ inch pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 turnips, peeled and diced
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in 4 to 6 pieces
3 cabbage leaves, chopped or sliced
3 whole cloves
½ cup small pasta shapes (shells, ditalini, orchiette)
1 tbsp. butter


Cut and clean meat with additional lime/lemon or vinegar.* Rinse with cold water, pat dry and add to pot. Into the pot add all the rest of the marinade ingredients, let marinate for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour, or overnight in the refrigerator for flavor enhancement.

On medium high heat brown the meat. Add water just barely to cover the meat when marinade has almost evaporated and let slowly cook. Check meat occasionally and add more water when necessary and until meat is fully cooked and tender when pierced with a fork, 1-2 hours. (More water is only necessary depending on the cut and size of meat; be careful with the whole pepper so it does not burst). When cooked, remove pot of meat from heat. Strain the vegetables and hot pepper out of the meat liquid and discard. Reserve the meat and the liquid together. This can be done one day ahead of time.

While the meat is simmering, you can bake the squash. Cut in half, scoop out the seeds and place on a foil lined baking sheet, bake for about an hour, or until very soft. Remove from oven and let cool. When cool enough to handle scrape the flesh from the skin and mash with a fork or a processor. Reserve.

Into a stockpot, add oil, leek, onion, and celery stalks and let cook for 5 minutes while stirring.  Next add parsnips, turnips, carrots, cabbage, potatoes and cloves (tied up in a piece of cheesecloth or a small coffee filter). Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Add the squash puree and water by the cupful until you have obtained the desired consistency, and continue to simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes until all ingredients are cooked. Add meat with strained liquid in the last 10 minutes of cooking along with the pasta shapes. Adjust the water adding more if necessary if soup is too thick. Finish by stirring in butter and additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with bread if preferred.


Notes and Instructions

As New Year’s Day approaches everyone looks forward to Soup Jomjou (pronounced joo-moo); it is one of the most popular traditions in Haitian culture. Traditionally served on New Year’s Day, soup joumou is made with a type of squash called calabaza. The soup is prepared early in the day and is served all morning to family, friends and visitors as they wish each other a Happy New Year. But this soup is also served throughout the year on Sunday morning with bread.

It is said that the soup was once a delicacy reserved for white masters but forbidden to the slaves who cooked it. After Independence, Haitians began eating it to celebrate the world’s first and only successful slave revolution resulting in an independent nation.

The main and most important step of this soup is cooking the beef – it must be well spiced and marinated. Many people often marinate their meat and cook it the day before to save on time since the soup must be ready early in the morning. In fact, you can certainly make the soup a day or two ahead of time to suite your schedule. Because of the availability of other types of squash, it is now common for it to be made with butternut squash, and that’s good for us since we can almost always find that in our markets.

There are so many wonderful vegetables in this soup though – carrots, celery, cabbage, turnips, parsnips and potatoes – that I believe it can easily be turned into a vegetarian soup if you wish. Just skip the first step of cooking the meat and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

— Linda McElroy

Recipe contribution from Linda McElroy, adapted from and photo credit with permission from: