Chicken Vegetable Soup
No sooner does the weather cool down and we’re making soup. It may seem daunting at first, but if you make homemade, broth based soup a few times, you will get quite good at pulling together something pretty wonderful in a reasonable amount of time. Soups are efficient at feeding a hungry family and they will help you use up those few veggies and leaves hanging around in your fridge. Homemade soup is very good the first night – even better for lunch or dinner the next day.
Make Chicken Broth
We make our broth a couple different ways. First, we’ll make broth from the leftovers of a roasted chicken. All the bones, skin, etc. go into a stock pot and enough water is added to just barely cover the chicken parts. Cook this for several hours on your stove or crock pot, strain. We strain into quart mason jars using a canning funnel and small mesh strainer.
The second method is using our Chicken Necks & Backs. We prefer the crock pot so we can leave it to cook while we work outside. We place defrosted chicken in the crock pot and add 1 quart water for every pound of chicken parts. We let this cook for a couple hours. We remove the backs only to pick off meat and then return the parts to the crock pot to continue cooking. A good broth can be made in 4 hours but cooking longer is fine. Strain broth when complete.
When you are ready to make soup, skim off the fat (and save!!), place broth in soup pot and begin heating.
We like tomato in our vegetable soup but sometimes we want the skin removed. Here’s an easy method to remove the skins from fresh tomatoes. We halve or quarter a few tomatoes and add pieces to the hot broth. You only need to let them cook a few minutes and the skin will slip right off. We use a slotted spoon to lift the tomatoes up out of the broth, pull off skin and place back into broth to stew. If you don’t mind the skin, just cut up and add to your broth.
Over the winter, we’ll use a quart or two of our canned stewed tomatoes.
We start with diced carrots, onion and celery (or swiss chard stems) and saute these vegetables until slightly tender. We use the chicken fat skimmed off the broth to saute our vegetables. Our chickens are organically fed and pastured. The good nutrition from our growing practices are present in the fat – use it! Once these veggies are tender, add to broth. Take a ladle full of broth, add to the saute pan, scrape up all the flavor and add to soup pot. Keep building the flavor!
We then add more diced vegetables to the soup pot depending on what we have – potato, winter squash, broccoli (including the diced leaves), sweet corn (cut off the cob, cob added to broth for flavor), green beans, summer squash.
We always add beans of some sort – usually garbanzo or red kidney. These are already cooked in our own kitchen or organic canned beans.
We add sliced greens of some sort – spinach, swiss chard, broccoli leaves, Napa or regular cabbage, or kale. It’s not a soup without a green! They wilt beautifully in the broth adding another element to your soup.
Herbs & Garlic
We crush 2 or 3 garlic bulbs into a paste and add to the soup pot. We’ll also add sprigs of fresh thyme, sage leaves, bay leaves, fresh basil and/or oregano. If you have frozen pesto for the winter, a cube of pesto is excellent in a vegetable soup.
Salt & Pepper
You have to salt your soup. You can add a little as you go, tasting along the way, or make it right in the end. But, you will not achieve soup glory unless you loosen up and add salt. No argument – it’s a must. We also add freshly ground pepper.
The last thing we add before serving soup is the chicken picked from a leftover meal and/or the stewed chicken backs when we made the broth. Add it last so it doesn’t overcook. All your veggies should be cooked through before adding the meat.
Heat gently, ladle into bowls and enjoy!