As a kid, a mug of chicken broth was one of my mom’s tried-and-true cures for the common cold. At the time, I was fairly skeptical of the idea, mainly because I didn’t want to sit there and drink plain old chicken broth. BO-RING! Then again, I pretty much never wanted to take any cold remedies that my mom gave me. I distinctly remember sitting up in bed one night while she tried to give me a spoonful of Robitussin, quite unsuccessfully. That particular set of sheets still has a red stain on it. (P.S. To the makers of Robitussin, whoever and wherever you are: How could you invent something so completely and thoroughly nasty and expect anyone to take it? I’d almost rather suffer through the cold than swallow your vile concoction.)
She also occasionally dosed me with Tylenol crushed in a spoonful of water (back before I learned how to swallow pills). Let me tell you–if you’re one of those people who has always blissfully gulped down the coated capsules, you’ve never truly experienced Tylenol. It’s awful.
But I digress. I’m not sure why I was so unenthusiastic about chicken broth, since it has major points over Robitussin and Tylenol, but it’s true–I was not a fan. Then at some point things began to change and I realized that homemade chicken broth was nothing short of awesome. So, when I moved away, I made sure to get my mom’s recipe.
Unfortunately, like many of these kinds of things, it’s not so much a recipe as a general idea. (Getting my mom to articulate the instructions for Inexperienced Me was challenging: “Ok, you need to add some salt and pepper.”
“How much?” “Less than you put in the beef stock.” “So….” “Well, I don’t know, I don’t measure it!”)
However, it’s a pretty darn good general idea, and I am here to share it with you today (with pictures!).
You will need:
Assorted chicken pieces (carcass/bones with some meat on them are good), several stalks of celery, an onion, salt, pepper, water, and a large pot.
1. Begin with a large stockpot. Throw in your assorted chunks of chicken carcass. I used a chicken back as well as some other scraps I had in the freezer. They all had some meat on them. Cover with water–enough to cook down a bit and still have some broth. Don’t be stingy. Throw in several stalks of celery (with leaves, if possible), an onion (cut into chunks), about a teaspoon of salt, and a half-teaspoon or so of pepper.
(This is the part that was hardest for my mom to be exact about, and I find that I’m the same way!)
2. Bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of hours or so…you want the chicken to be cooked and the broth to be rich. If you put in too much water, you can let it cook down longer so it will have more flavor.
This was the part where I went and cleaned some things in my house and took a nap.
3. When your broth is done, remove the chicken pieces to a plate. Remove all chunks of celery and onion (I usually just toss them). If you’re having trouble getting the small bits out, you can strain it through a sieve. Either way, pour the broth into a large bowl and refrigerate several hours or overnight. This will allow the fat to rise to the top and harden somewhat so that it can be easily skimmed off.
4. When your fat has hardened, remove it from the top of the broth and throw it away. Measure how much broth you have and decide how you’re going to use it. This particular day I ended up with 7 cups of broth. I measured out 5 cups to make soup and froze the rest. You might use more broth if you are going to cook rice or noodles in your soup (which will absorb some of the liquid) or if you are cooking for more people. Or you might use it in some other soup recipe that calls for a particular amount.
5. To make chicken noodle soup, I assembled a pile of ingredients: Frozen peas, chopped carrots, cooked egg noodles, and chopped chicken.
You could use pretty much whatever you want or have around in your soup. I would also maybe add corn if I had some. Rice is a good substitute for noodles. Someday when I am feeling ambitious I will do my mom’s homemade egg noodles, which are amazing.
7. Throw your broth in the pot (not literally, unless you like cleaning up messes), add chicken and vegetables, bring to a boil, and simmer a few minutes (10, maybe?). Add cooked noodles and rice towards the end–you don’t want them to get overdone and soggy, nor do you want them to soak up too much of the broth if they’re already cook. Conversely, if you have enough broth, you can add uncooked noodles and rice at the beginning; then add the other stuff when the noodles are cooked.
8. When you are done, it will look something like this, except better (I probably should have taken a picture of the soup in the serving bowls, but for some reason this is all I got):
Edit: I just made broth again this morning, using the all the bones and leftover odd bits from the chicken I roasted on Sunday. I didn’t really change anything in how I made the broth. I cooked it this time for about an hour and a half. It turned out just as well with pre-cooked chicken as it did with raw!