Saturday, December 1, 2007

Grandma's Chicken Soup

Grandma Della was a remarkable woman for many reasons. First of all, she lived to the ripe old age of 104. That's remarkable enough, right? She grew up in a little village (shtetl) outside of Kiev in Russia. She met her husband on her wedding day. Marriages were arranged at that time. Czar Nicholas was in power and life was dangerous when they fled to the United States. She got off the boat at Ellis Island in New York and began a new life in the new world. She worked in a factory during World War I sewing buttons on army uniforms. She owned candy stores and worked her fingers to the bone to raise her three children after losing her husband at an early age.
I was her youngest grandchild. After we moved to Florida in 1959, Grandma would come to visit each year for 2 months and would stay, part of the time with us and part of the time at a hotel on Miami Beach with her lady friends. This visit always included being with us for Passover. I became my Grandma's assistant in the kitchen and she taught me everything she knew about cooking. She always said..."the one ingredient you must put in everything you cook is 'love'. If you do that, everything you make will be delicious". She left me, and all of us, with so many wonderful memories and recipes full of love and I want to share them with you.
I'll start with Chicken Soup. As I'm sure you've heard...a bowl of this 'jewish penicillin' can help cure whatever is wrong with you.
If you follow my instructions you can't go wrong. This is how it was told to me....
Please realize that Grandma didn't measure was a little of this and a little of that. I cook like she did but I'll try to assign some numbers to this to help you. Please also remember that you need to make this soup the day before you want to eat it. It needs time to cool in the fridge so the fat can be skimmed off the top before you serve. This generally takes overnight.


1. Chicken Depending on how much soup you want to make. You can use a whole chicken, or let's say 6 to 9 quarters (thigh/leg combo's).

2. Onions - 3 med to large onions. Ends cut off and peeled.

3. Carrots - 1 cup of either baby carrots (easy) or cut pieces from large carrots that you have to wash and peel.

4. Parsnip - a large one (looks like a white carrot), cut the ends off and use the peeler to clean it.

5. Celery Stalks - 3 or 4 washed and the ends trimmed.

6. Fresh Dill - 1/2 bunch

7. Fresh Parsley 1/2 bunch (curled or flat) Wash both the dill and parsley in a large bowl or sink at least 3 times with cold water. You can let it soak for a few minutes which will help any grit to fall off. There's nothing worse than grit in chicken soup so do a good job. I like to use kitchen string and I tied the dill and parsley together in a tight bundle. I cook it that way and then it's easy to take it out when the soup is done.

8. Salt - 2 teaspoons.

9. Chicken bouillon - 2 tablespoons - powdered type.


  1. Use a big pot that has a lid. If you don't have a lid, you can use foil when you need it.
  2. Rinse the chicken, pull off any unnecessary fat that the butcher left on to weigh it down.
  3. Put the rinsed chicken pieces in the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add COLD water to cover the chicken and then some.
  5. Toss in the 2 teaspoons of salt.
  6. Heat on high until it begins to boil.
  7. Turn the heat down some and stand there with it. A foamy scum will start to float. Use a slotted spoon to remove it. Repeat this until you don't see any more coming up. Now cover the pot and turn the heat to low so that it continues to simmer for 1 1/2 hrs. You'll know your chicken is done when all you have to do is touch the skin with your spoon and the skin breaks.
  8. Now you can remove the chicken into a bowl pouring back into the pot any soup that escaped. Cover the bowl of chicken and set aside.
  9. Now, using a hand held fine sieve (strainer) scoop through the liquid to remove any chicken pieces or debris that might have broken away during the long boil.
  10. This is when you will stir in the two tablespoons of powdered chicken bouillon.
  11. Gently put in the onions, carrots, parsnip, celery, and bundled dill/parsley.
  12. Bring back to a boil, cover, lower the heat to low to keep it simmering for another 1 to 1.5 hrs.
  13. I like to then take out the greens and drain the liquid back into the pot.
  14. Let it cool down for a while and then put it in the fridge. You can turn the pot lid upside down to help it fit.
  15. Tomorrow you will skim the fat, heat, and serve.
You can warm the cooked chicken right in the soup as you reheat it. Some people like chicken IN their soup. We like to eat the chicken separately and we make little egg noodles (pick your favorite) to serve in the bowl of soup.

That's it. That's all there is to it.

If you make this soup for people you care for and for the right reasons they will be able to taste the love with every spoonful.

Hint: I make huge pots of this soup and I freeze individual portions in sip lock sandwich bags on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, of course, you can put them all in a larger freezer bag and put the cookie sheet away. You'll have soup at a moments notice and you appreciate it every time.

I always make sure to leave the freezer full when I have to travel and leave my love at home so there's always a meal.

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