There’s something about chicken soup – I mean a good homemade chicken soup recipe from scratch – that’s special. I’ve been making it forever as did my mother and my grandmother. And probably her mother and grandmother before that. It’s nourishing. It’s comforting.
My mother swears that it also cures colds. I’m not sure about that last one, but it always makes me feel better. To be honest, there are a few steps involved so it does take some time. It’s best to make the soup a day or more ahead to easily remove the grease.
Chicken soup is a given on Jewish holidays. It’s practically inconceivable not to have it. But I love it any time of the year. My daughter Shannon and my two older grand kids request it regularly. It’s become a ‘must have’ on all family vacations.
Homemade chicken soup is for the soul, for nourishment, for colds, for comfort, for pleasure. So much deliciousness in one bowl. And worth the effort I think. Needless to say, the soup or broth is the basis from many other soups and dishes too. Here’s a couple to try: Thai Style Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup and Wedding Soup.
Tips for Homemade Chicken Soup
- What chicken to use: I like to use chicken bones (with a bit of meat on them) as well as a few pieces of chicken with skin on to add flavor. My preference is the more flavorful kosher chicken (which is brined). If you do use kosher chicken,use less or no salt initially. You can always add salt at the end.
- Flavor: I love dill in chicken soup – memories of old I guess. Add it while cooking and save a few sprigs when freezing and reheating the soup. If you prefer bay leaves to dill, go for it. And, of course, be sure to add onions and a clove or two of garlic.
- To increase depth/richness: It’s difficult to provide exact measurements for chicken soup, but fairly easy to adjust once the basic broth is made. If it’s not quite rich enough when you taste it, continue to simmer it down uncovered until it’s reduced in the pot by and inch or so. This will concentrate it and increase the depth of flavor. Or, add a bit of chicken bouillon if necessary.
- De-greasing the soup: The fat from the chicken and chicken skin will add a layer of grease to the soup. The easiest way to get rid of it is to chill the soup for a day in the fridge or freeze it. The layer of grease rises to the top and hardens. Then just scrape or spoon in off. Alternatively, with a little patience, you can skim off the grease right after the broth is cooked.
- If you are making the soup a day or more ahead (suggested), put it in the fridge along with some fresh dill floating on top. The cold temperature will allow the grease to congeal on top of the broth, making it easy to skim off and discard. The soup can stay in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- The soup may also be frozen for 4-6 months. Reheat the soup in a pot on the stove or in the microwave.
How To Serve Homemade Chicken Soup From Scratch
This is really personal preference.
- I love the sweet soft carrots and celery from the soup.
- You can add chicken chunks from from the soup although I find the chicken from the soup pretty flavorless. All the flavor is now in the soup. If you want to serve the soup with chicken, I suggest adding a couple of pieces of raw chicken toward about 20 minutes before the the end of the simmering process.
- The purists won’t agree, but you can of course add other vegetables toward the end of cooking. Fresh baby spinach will wilt in a minute.
- My favorite filler in chicken soup is fine egg noodles or orzo. And during Jewish holidays – matzoh balls. Yum!!
Homemade Chicken Soup Recipe From Scratch
- 3 -4 pounds of chicken parts and/or bones (I use at least some thighs or legs.)
- 4 -5 large carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks
- 4 -5 celery ribs, cut into chunks
- 3 parsnips, peeled and cut in large chunks
- 1 large onion (I use a sweet onion)
- 2 cloves, garlic, peeled
- 2 tsp salt or to taste (Use less if using kosher chicken)
- 8 peppercorns (whole)
- handful fresh parsley
- handful fresh dill
- 2 optional: white turnips, peeled and cut into small chunks
- PREPARE SOUP FOR COOKING: Trim chicken. I leave on some skin to add flavor to the soup. Place chicken pieces in a large pot. Add the vegetables (except turnips), garlic, salt and pepper. Fill pot with water to 1 inch above the level of the chicken and vegetables (about 16 cups). Place the parsley and dill on top.
- COOK THE SOUP: Heat stove to medium-high. Bring soup to a a gentle boil. Skim off the residue that floats to the surface with a ladle a few times. Lower the heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Uncover slightly (tilt lid to create a 3-4 inch gap). Add turnips if using. Continue to simmer for another 15-30 minutes.
- STRAIN THE SOUP: Remove the chicken and vegetables into a large bowl and set aside. I separate them in two separate bowls and discard the onion, parsnips (they get mushy), herbs and garlic. Strain the broth through a sieve and put it back into the pot.
- TASTE AND ADJUST TO ADD DEPTH OF FLAVOR: Taste the soup. If it needs more depth of flavor, there are a few options. 1) continue cooking the broth uncovered until reduced a bit (about 20-30 more minutes) - this will concentrate the the broth more. 2) add a teaspoon or more of chicken bouillon such as Better Than Bouillon or 3) add one can of full undiluted concentrated chicken broth (with no water) such as Campbell's Chicken Broth. Add salt as needed.
- SKIM GREASE AND SERVE THE SOUP: If you are serving it right away, skim off the grease with a spoon and discard.Ladle the hot broth into bowls along with cooked fine noodles or orzo or matzoh balls. Add chunks of the chicken and/or vegetables used when making the broth. Enjoy! Note 1 to make ahead.
- To make ahead: If you are making the soup a day or more ahead (suggested), put it in the fridge along with some fresh dill floating on top. The cold temperature will allow the grease to congeal on top of the broth, making it easy to skim off and discard. The soup can stay in the fridge for 3-4 days. The soup may also be frozen for 4-6 months. Reheat the soup in a pot on the stove or in the microwave.
Here are two other popular Jewish holiday foods: