With all the Jewish mother jokes that feature chicken soup, not to mention the many commercial products in the “chicken soup for the soul” collection, I hesitate to venture down this path. But with so many friends and family suffering colds and flu and with a blustery wind blowing here for the past few days, I decided to be brave – so here goes – my 2¢ on good, old-fashioned Jewish chicken soup.
This isn’t a cookbook or foodblog-type recipe. It’s the way your grandmother – or someone else’s grandmother – would have shown you how to make it. This stuff is not a replacement for modern medicine, but if you’ve ever had a bowl of excellent Jewish chicken soup, you know what I’m talking about when I say it has healing powers that no doctor can replicate.
To Make Jewish Chicken Soup You Need:
- Vegetables – Carrot, celery, onion, and fresh parsley are essential. It’s nice to add parsnip if you like a somewhat sweet undertone to the broth.
- Salt and pepper
- Bay leaf or leaves
- A big pot with a cover, preferably with a wide bottom
- A spoon or spoons for stirring
- A cutting board and knife
- Patience (not pictured)
You Might Also Want:
- Extra chicken to add in at the end
- Small pasta, rice, or bits of potato
- A strainer/colander and cheesecloth if you like your soup very clear
Before You Make Chicken Soup, Keep in Mind:
The soup takes a long time to make. It should simmer for a minimum of 2 (I prefer 3) hours. So it’s a great way to force yourself to stay home if you have a cold and really shouldn’t go out.
This is peasant food. You don’t need the most expensive chicken or the fanicest chicken parts. In fact, the soup will taste best if you include giblets (the internal organs and neck of the chicken), often found packaged in a paper sack inside a whole chicken. Whole chickens are cheaper than cut-up chicken or parts. So if you can bear to reach into the cavity of a whole chicken, pull out the giblet package and open it, you’ll be rewarded by the taste of the final product and the lower cost of the chicken. If you prefer chicken parts, buy them with bones because the bones will add great flavor to the soup.
Think ahead. The chicken and vegetables will become super-soft after simmering all that time. (You’ll be able to “cut” the chicken with a spoon and the vegetables will fall apart at the least provocation.) If you want chicken chunks and slightly crunchy pieces of vegetables floating in the soup, plan on leaving a bit of white meat, carrot, and celery out of the pot to cook at the last minute.
- Put 1-2 carrots, 1-2 stalks of celery, 1-2 onions, a few sprigs of parsley, 1-2 bay leaves, a sprinkling of salt and a few turns of freshly ground pepper, and a 3-4 pound chicken in the pot. The vegetables should be clean but left whole (except if required to fit them into the pot), with the onion skin removed. If you used a whole chicken, did you check to make sure you removed the giblets if they were inside the body cavity? Reminder - Food safety rules mean that you should keep other foods away from surfaces and implements that raw chicken touched and that you should wash those items especially carefully.
I’ve left off matzo balls as a potential add-on – we’ll get to those as Passover draws near.
In the meantime, if you save the cooked chicken, check back here on Wednesday when I’m using my cooked chicken for a new take on kreplach, the traditional Purim treat. If you don’t know what kreplach is, think about Jewish wontons or ravioli and you’ll be in the right ballpark. See you then.