The Quintessential Remedy for all that Ails
Yes, it is the chicken that makes all of the difference. If you do not have a good free range organic chicken, don’t bother making the soup. Truly. I buy my carcassesÂ at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market from Sunworks Farm or from Nature’s Green Acres at City Market and the broth actually tastes deeply rich and delicious, like it used to in my youth when we would go to my Grandma Maude’s and have it. She lived in a small village in Alberta (Clive), and had chickens on her property for a few years. Now, those were free range chickens! They had full access to every part of her yard; we’d run to shoo the chickens so we could open the gate to drive the car down the lane. I was so afraid of them. They were vicious! I loved going in the spring to see the little baby chicks, but they grow so fast, that we would usually miss that stage.
Everything grandma made was the best. She had a garden that was almost an acre in size. There were asparagus, raspberries, potatoes, and kohlrabi before anyone knew what kohlrabi was. I got my love for the riches of the earth and the smells of the deep, mineral rich black soil from her. She would be down on her hands and knees digging through the soil in the spring planting her seeds with precision and excitement. There was no end to the weeds, yet she was out there every day at sunrise, hoeing the rows and weeding her little tenders.
When the produce started to come in the spring, the leafy lettuce salad was the first thrill: tender greens with farm fresh cream from the Bell’s farm down the road, and a little sugar and vinegar. Every early summer I make this salad and remember my sweet grandma, Maude. Shelling peas with her onÂ her porch, snipping beans out in the sunny yard, picking raspberries by the ice cream bucketful in the fall… I never remember grandma without thinking of her garden. She and her garden were synonomous.
And the years she had the chickens in the spring were unforgettable. Her chicken soup was thick with vegetables; her homemade noodles and rich chicken flavour that I have only come close to replicating. She taught me how to make soup. I remember her making it when I was that young little girl visiting her village home, but she taught me how to make it when I was living in LethbridgeÂ as a new mom.
She taught me that it was all about the chicken. I remember I bought the backs and necks from the grocery store to make a soup; we made it together, but then she had me take her to the local farmer’s market to buy a chicken and she went home, cut it all up and saved the carcass for the soup. Now, there was no comparison between the two soups. The first was quite watery and lacked flavour. The second presented a depth of flavour that can only be acquired from a happy and well loved chicken!
This carcass is lovely, and goes into a large soup pot. There are two carcasses here. The vegetables are then added withÂ the seasonings. Even the colour of theÂ flesh is pinker than the colourless necks and backs available at the local grocery stores.
The colours, aromas and textures are “kitchen art”. The simplicity of making such a substantial and traditional soup is gratifying on so many levels. A lesson taught by my grandma to pass on to my grandchildren (one day, I hope!); the production of such comfort for my family and friends. A hearty offering that would beautifully preface any meal, could be made substantial enough for a meal itself, and is most definitely comfort to an ailing tummy.
This is a little project you do on a day you are staying home. I make a soup every Sunday, or almost every Sunday. I love stayng home on Sundays and preparing a wonderful family meal, as well as the yogurt, and bread for the week. It is the one full day I reserve for myself and my kitchen. I love having my girl friends over for coffee while I am working away at something or other in my kitchen on a Sunday. The humid warmth of the boiling broth is my Sunday at the Spa.
Once the meat is falling off of the bone, I strain everything into a massive stainless bowl. This is a little different from grandma’s teaching, but my husband does not like a chicken soup with too many vegetables, or very much meat. And, this is exactly what I would do if I were making a stock, except I wouldÂ add the onion skins in at the onset to darken the broth. So, at this point, you have a beautiful chicken stock if you have added the onion skins at the onset.
After taking the meat off of the bone, discarding the dissovling onions and celery, I put the meat back into the broth and cut the carrots into angular bites, and replace them, as well. Then, because my husband loves his homemade egg noodles, in they go, if I have them. Otherwise, I use the ones from a bag. Today, we have homemade.
And, voila! Here are my noodles going into the soup. My husband is very particular about his chicken soup. I believe I said that already. Not too many vegetables, not too many noodles, richly flavoured broth… I think this will make his little tummy happy. That’s why I make it!
Chicken Soup or Chicken Stock
- 2 free range, organic chicken carcuses
- 2 large onions quartered (with skins, and even extra skins to darken and enrich the stock)
- 2 carrots, in chunks
- 2 stalks of celery, in chunks
- a bundle of parsley in an elastic
- 1 t whole peppercorns
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1 cup of fine egg noodles (omit for stock)
- salt and pepper to tast when finished
- Place the first 7 ingredients into a large soup pot and cover with water (hopefully there will be enough room in the potÂ to let the soup cook at a simmering boil with the lid on: do not bring to a hard boil!)
- Cover, and just bring to a boil, then turn the heat down so the soup cooks at a slow and low simmering boil for 3-4 hours, or until the meat falls off of the bone
- Strain the stock (season and store for stock: you are done!)
- Recover meat and the carrots and add them back into the stock with the noodles
- Season to taste after the noodles are cooked
making my mouth water. you are such an amazing cook… and blogger. i just love this blog.
Mike Gorman says
This sounds amazing. I just wrote a blog about slow cooking on my page and was also thinking a slow cooker would be a great option next time I want to make a chicken soup, cos it stops it from really boiling at any stage. Anyway, thanks for the inspiration…