We’ve gotten really good at chicken soup around here, what with all the stew birds that show up in our freezer. Today, I’m going to share how to make the broth and a simple soup, and later, I’ll share some variations.
You’re going to need a nice, big stockpot. Here’s an 8-Quart pot, if your family is smaller, and here are 12-quart and 16-quart versions if you’re cooking for a crowd. These are really nice stock pots, and they’ll last you a lifetime for a small investment. I even have a 20-Quart pot, and I use it all the time!
1 or 2 whole chickens
2-3 whole carrots, unpeeled, broken into chunks
1-2 onions, peels on, quartered
3-5 cloves garlic, unpeeled, cut or smashed to expose garlic
2-4 stalks celery, broken into pieces
2-3 bay leaves
8-12 peppercorns, whole
Salt: 2 tablespoons per gallon of water used to cover chickens
Use the smaller amounts for one chicken and the larger amounts for two. Put everything into the stock pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for three to four hours. Check it after an hour or so to make sure the salt is right.
When the chicken is falling-off-the-bone tender and the broth is richly colored and fragrant, it’s done! Remove the chicken from the pot, then strain the broth, discarding all the vegetables. Remove the chicken from the bones, and discard those, too.
Now you’re ready to make soup!
You can use the leftovers from a roasted chicken, but the broth won’t be quite as robust. If I have roasted bones, I usually add an uncooked chicken, too, because it tastes better.
As your broth cools, the fat will rise to the surface. After it’s been refrigerated, it’ll solidify and you can scoop it right off. Also, your broth will most likely cool into a gelatinous substance. If it does, congratulations! That’s a really nutritious broth!
Salting the broth early and well is, in my opinion, key to making a really great soup. It just seems to bring out all the flavors in a way that later salting just misses, so don’t delay.
Do not try to reuse the vegetables! They’ve had all the flavor and goodness boiled right out of them.
You can also freeze your broth for later use in recipes. I usually do this in two-cup quantities, which is just about one can of chicken broth.
Basic Chicken Soup
Butter or olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
sliced mushrooms, if you like
herbs for seasoning, perhaps Italian, or oregano, sage, or rosemary
8 cups homemade broth
vegetables of your choice, chopped
noodles, rice or beans, according to your desires, no more than 2 cups, but less is probably better
diced chicken from the making of the broth
Never, ever, under any circumstances, should you begin a soup without onions and garlic. Ever. So heat up some butter or oil and saute an onion and some minced garlic until very tender and just turning golden. Add mushrooms now, if you like them, and saute these, too, until they are richly golden. Add your seasonings, broth, and vegetables, and as it warms up, check to make sure the salt is right. Bring to a boil. Now add noodles, rice or beans and simmer until done. Stir in the chicken, and serve!
Excellent for chilly nights and under-the-weather days, and endlessly changeable. I never tire of chicken soup!