Flu season is here, and I’ve avoided the flu through such clever methods as teaching lots of public classes with people who sneeze on me, going to the grocery store and not wiping the handle off with one of those bacteria sheets and not owning a bottle of hand sanitizer.
Instead, I wash my hands frequently and eat blueberries to build up my immune system. I happen to believe that we have too many antibacterials in our life, and those antibacterials kill off a lot of what helps us stay healthy over time. Just my opinion, of course.
The other excellent activity is eating chicken soup. You don’t have to be ill to eat chicken soup, but if you are ill, it is comforting and delicious. It’s my mom’s recipe, which she got from her mom. It’s been comforting Jews and gentiles alike for more than 100 years.
My Mom’s Chicken Soup (make it when you are home all day)
- 1 small, plump chicken, about 4 pounds
- OR, 4 pounds of raw chicken parts, including necks and backs
- 2 leeks washed spotlessly clean of sand
- 4 carrots
- 4 celery stalks (plus leaves)
- curly parsley (not Italian or cilantro)
- two bay leaves
- salt to taste
For after the stock making:
- 3 carrots
- 1 leek
- generous handful of green beans
- rough chopped mushrooms–white buttons OK, but shitake are better
- noodles or rice–1/2 cup cooked per person
- curly parsley
Wash chicken in cold, running water. Cut into manageable parts–they have to fit in the pot. Wash and scrub carrots and celery, don’t peel the carrots.
Cut carrots into fat coins, celery stalks into 3-inch pieces.
Cut off tops of leeks, so that you have about 2 inches of green and the rest white. Trim off the roots, too. Cut them in half lengthwise, then into fat slices.
Use all of the parsley, stems and all.
Put the chicken in a big stock pot and cover with cold, clean water, up to 2 gallons. Less is fine, more depends on the size of the pot. Add all vegetables and two bay leaves.
Put on medium heat till the soup boils. Do not boil so hard that it foams over. The soup will form a scum in about 10-15 minutes, it’s supposed to. Skim the scum several times, using a big spoon. Discard the scum. Once the stock stops forming scum, reduce the heat to a very slow boil, even a simmer is fine, and let it boil for about 4 hours. If you already have a cold, or live in a dry climate, don’t cover. If you don’t want the house to fill with comforting steam, cover the pot. Check on the chicken to make sure it remains covered with water.
After four hours, turn off the heat and pour through a fine sieve or colander. Make sure you use a big enough pot to strain the liquid into. I do not strain through cheesecloth because I don’t want a clear broth, I want soup.
Fill the sink with ice cubes and put the broth into the sink. When it is about body temperature (shouldn’t feel warm to the touch) put it in the fridge until the fat solidifies on top. Take off the fat and discard. (Sorry, Mom, all that lovely schmaltz!)
While the soup is cooling, pull the meat off the bones of the chicken. Discard the bones and all vegetable matter.
What you have now is the base for your chicken soup. You can freeze some and use as stock, or use all of it to make a giant pot of chicken soup, depending on the size of your family or number of friends.
Let’s say you are making the entire pot of soup. Put the cut-up chicken back in the pot, along with the cut-up vegetables, including parsley, which you cut fine. This time, discard the stems. Cook gently till vegetables are tender–about half an hour.
Prepare noodles, rice, bulger wheat, or potatoes–about 1/2 cup per person, after preparation. My mom didn’t like the starch from these products in her soup, so she cooked them separately and then added them to the soup.