What Every Jewish Mother Knows Is….

how to make chicken soup, of course!  It’s a law.

Of course, you have my grandmother, who knew how to make chicken soup from scratch, and then you have my mother, who knew how to open a can of Campbell’s. You know, both work when you’re sick.  One is a whole lot more effort than the other.  But if they’re both served by a Jewish mother, than the magical medicinal properties remain.  If you’re not a Jewish mother, well, you should probably still know how to make homemade chicken soup.  It may not be quite as magical but I bet it’ll do the trick the next time you or someone you love is sick.

The problem is, of course, like any good passed-down recipe, there is no hard and fast recipe with measurements.  So I’ll give you the ballpark and you’ll experiment.  Really, it’s hard to go wrong.  Soup is very forgiving.  Plus, I’ll even give you a bonus sandwich recipe since you’ll have a lot of chicken once you’ve made the soup.

Homemade Chicken Soup

1 whole chicken or 1 whole chicken cut into parts

Several carrots, peeled and chopped (I’d say 6 large)

1 whole onion, peeled and cut into quarters

2-4 cloves of garlic, peeled

Several stalks of celery, washed and chopped (Again, maybe 6 stalks?)

2 large tomatoes, cut into quarters

Pasta, if you’d like

About ten billion cups of water.  Okay, how about 14 cups?  I use the same stockpot when I make soup and I just eyeball it.


Wash and pat dry your chicken.  If you’re using a whole chicken, make sure to remove the gizzards and neck package that’s usually stuffed inside the cavity.  You can use this in the broth if you like but don’t forget to unwrap it.  No plastic in the soup!   Place your chicken in a big soup or stockpot and cover with the water.  Add 3 of the celery stalks, 3 of the carrots, all of the onion, all of the garlic and one of the tomatoes.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Once it’s boiling, turn down the heat and let it cook for, well, forever.  At least an hour.  I generally cook it for a few hours, adding water when the level gets below the chicken.  You’ll know you’re done when the meat of the chicken is coming off the bones.

Set it all aside to let it cool.  In fact, I often put it in the fridge and leave it overnight.  The chicken fat (that’s schmaltz to you Jews) will sort of (gross) congeal and it will make it easier to remove it.

Using a large spoon, skim the congealed fat off the soup.  Or at least as much of it as you can.  If you’re really intrepid, you can save it and use it when you’re making matzo balls.  If you’re like me (and unlikely to make matzo balls in the near future), put it in a bowl and then toss it in the garbage.  It’s not really good for your garbage disposal or your sink drain.

Yucky fat skimmed. And some tomatoes that got throw in there as well.


Once you’ve skimmed all the fat, you can reheat if your broth has sort of jellied or, if your broth is just broth, you can skip the reheating.  Remove all the chicken and as many of the vegetables as you can and put them in a bowl to cool.

The chicken and vegetables I removed before I strained my soup.

Then strain the broth through a mesh sieve and into another pot or bowl.

What was left in my sieve.

If there’s any visible fat in your broth, skim it out now.  There will be some left but that’s ok.  You just don’t want a whole lot.  Ick.

Return the broth to the heat and add the other 3 carrots, celery, and the tomato.  Return it to the heat on medium and let it slowly come to a boil.  Meanwhile, go back to your bowl of chicken and veggies.  Pick out the chicken and start to shred the meat with your fingers.  Don’t use the skin or the cartilage or the bones, just find the meat and shred it into small, soup size pieces.  Add this to the soup.  Unless you want lots and lots of chicken in your soup, you will likely have some leftover.  That’s ok, use it for the bonus chicken salad recipe below.

Let this cook for another good while- at least an hour.  Add more water if it gets too low- more than halfway down the pot.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and maybe a little bit of thyme.  Remember not to over-salt because as it cooks, it will get more salty.  The soup will be done when the veggies are tender but not mushy.

If you want to add pasta to your soup, cook it separately.  Trust me on this one.  Cook it according to the package directions and add it to the soup bowls as you serve.

I used little tiny pasta "ears"


Bonus Curry Chicken Salad Recipe


Leftover chicken from the soup


red onion (to taste, I only used about 1 teaspoon)

Curry power (to taste, I used between 1 and 2 teaspoons)

1-2 stalks of celery, chopped

salt, pepper

bread, for making the sandwich

Shred the chicken and put it into a large bowl.

Slice your red onion very thinly and add to the bowl.

I didn't even use all of this onion.

Add the celery and the curry powder. 

Add mayo to taste (I think I used maybe 3-5 tablespoons), it will depend on both your taste buds and how much chicken you have.  Sometimes I’ll add some sliced grapes and walnuts or cranberries.  But it’s tasty even without those additions.

Spread on toast and serve with the soup.  Yum.

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