Chicken soup is definitely good for the soul. And for fighting colds and flu.
When my mother lived in a walk-up apartment in New York City, she had neighbors from all over the world when women largely stayed home and took care of their homes. One advantage of this living arrangement was an opportunity for networking with different cultures. My mother befriended a woman of Jewish descent, Mrs. Ginsberg, who swore by chicken soup (Jewish Penicillin) to fight a cold. She taught my mother a different method from what her mother had taught her. This included adding what mom’s friend termed “the key ingredient” – a fresh onion. Years later, when mom taught me to make chicken soup, she admonished me to not forget the onion.
What’s so magical about adding an onion?
Besides flavor, onion contains “quercetin dehydrate,” which is a flavonoid known to decrease inflammation, relieve allergy symptoms, reduce the risk of cancer, has antioxidant properties, lowers high blood pressure, and reduces the risk of heart disease. I find that amazing from a small vegetable that also does a great job at enhancing recipes!
From the perspective of homemade chicken soup to fight a cold, the most important benefits of the onion are that it reduces inflammation, which includes the nasal passages and that constant feeling of the whole body being inflamed which causes us to moan and groan and writhe and writher on the sofa under a ton of comforters.
Mom’s soup-making technique was easy, noting that the fresher the ingredients, the better.
A whole chicken can be used, but mom usually roasted a chicken, and after putting aside the meat for numerous recipes, she would add the carcass to a large pot and cover with water. Add four stalks of celery, one large peeled onion, two large carrots, four large garlic cloves, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer until when you blow on a removed bone, it turns white. I plan on at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Using a colander, drain off the vegetables and carcass. Pour the remaining broth through a fine-mesh strainer to get it as clear as possible. Use the remaining broth to sip and treat a cold. Or use as a base and add other vegetables, leftover chicken, and cooked noodles, quinoa, or cooked rice. If it’s probable that you won’t use the whole batch at one sitting, I recommend adding the cooked noodles, etc. to each bowl. Otherwise, leftovers will soak up the broth. This also works well if each person wants something different.
Of course, we all know the healing benefits of chicken soup isn’t just about the chicken and vegetables. That special dose of love from making it homemade is surely an added benefit!
Mrs. Ginsberg's Chicken and Onion Soup
- Large stovetop pot
- Paring knife
- Strainer or cheesecloth
- Large bowl
- 3 lb (1.36kg) Fresh or thawed roasting chicken
- 8 cups (1.9L) Water Some liquid may boil off, add more to make 8 cups (1.9L)
- 4 large stalks Celery Use the leaves, too, if you have them
- 1 large Onion
- 4 sprigs Herbs Any combination of rosemary, thyme, and sage
- 1 tbsp (5ml) Salt Use as much as you prefer
- Pepper Use as much as you prefer
- I use a whole roasting chicken. After the carcass is picked nearly clean, put the meat aside for other dishes, reserving some to add to the finished broth.
- Add the carcass to a large pot. Cover. This usually takes at least 8 cups of water. Cut the onion in quarters, dice the celery and carrots and add to the pot. This is a good time to add fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary. Dried can be used as well, A nice Italian mix works perfectly. Now add 6 garlic cloves, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. A good test to know if it's cooked enough is to remove a bone and blow on it. If it turns white, your broth is done.
- Drain the contents of the pot carefully into a colander you've set in a large bowl. If you want a clear broth, proceed to strain the resulting broth in a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
- This broth can be sipped hot "as is" or reheated with more vegetables. I cook quinoa, pasta, or rice separately and serve separately. These ingredients can get soggy when stored for later use. Each person can then also take as much as they like or none at all.
- This broth freezes really well which makes it an excellent choice to make ahead for future meals or to use the broth as an added flavor for other dishes.