Although soup is a part of almost every culture, chicken soup has deep roots in Jewish tradition. An integral part of Passover meals and the basis for matzoh ball soup, chicken soup was often referred to as "Jewish penicillin" because it was the go-to dish for those feeling under the weather. Although anyone can make the soup from whatever chicken parts she has on hand, professional chefs use a whole chicken to take advantage of both white and dark meat as well as the many bones that lend flavor to the broth.
Remove giblets and anything else in the cavity of the chicken. Rinse the chicken inside and out under cold, running water. If the pot is not large enough to accommodate the chicken whole, use a sharp knife to remove the legs.
Place the chicken, either whole or in pieces, in a large stockpot, followed by the vegetables, herbs and spice. Fill the pot to within 2 inches of the top with cold water. Set on the burner over high heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
Bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat until it comes down to a slow simmer. Cook for 1.5 hours. Remove the chicken from the pot. Remove all of the meat from the chicken and set aside.
Add the chicken bones back to the pot. Cover and simmer for an additional 1.5 hours. Taste the liquid frequently during this part of the cooking process, adding kosher or sea salt as desired. Remove the pot from the heat.
Use a slotted spoon or mesh ladle to remove as many of the large pieces of bones and vegetables as possible and discard. Line a large bowl with two layers of cheesecloth, making sure that a few inches of cheesecloth hang over the sides of the bowl. Slowly pour the broth from the pan into the bowl. Grab the edges of the cheesecloth and lift it straight out of the bowl to remove the small bits of bones, herbs and spice and leave you with a clear broth.
Rinse out the stockpot, return the broth to the pot and place it on the hot burner. Shred or cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and add them to the broth, along with any rice, vegetables or noodles desired in the finished soup. Simmer until everything is heated and cooked through.
Things You'll Need
Large stockpot with lid
1 whole fresh chicken
3 medium yellow onions, cut in quarters
3 carrots, cut in half
3 celery ribs with leaves, cut in half
10 whole peppercorns
10 sprigs of parsley
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
Kosher salt or sea salt
Although you can use any type of chicken for chicken soup, even a rotisserie chicken from the local supermarket, the best choice is a stewing hen from your local butcher. If your choices are limited to a roaster or fryer chicken from the supermarket, choose the roaster because the meat is easier to remove from the bones.
If you want to minimize fat and calories, allow the broth to cool completely after straining. Add the shredded or cut-up chicken to it and refrigerate overnight. Most of the residual fat in the broth will rise to the surface and solidify slightly. Use a large spoon to skim off the fat and then continue with the recipe.
"Joy of Cooking" cautions cooks not to add much salt at the beginning of the cooking process. As the broth reduces, the taste of the salt will intensify.
The USDA recommends storing chicken soup for no more than three to four days in the refrigerator or four to six months in the freezer.