In the Martin & Sylvia story “Helping Out,” the children are disappointed to find that their favorite sledding hill is occupied. When they return home to see that Momma has taken a sick day from her work, however, the children recognize the joys of letting go of plans and helping out at home instead.
There’s nothing for a sick day like a pot of soup made with good, homemade broth. By preparing the broth ahead of time, even a sick person who doesn’t have helpers as good as Martin and Sylvia can enjoy a bowl of soothing soup.
Whenever I make chicken broth, I think of the story of Stone Soup. That’s because broth works just fine when you toss in ingredients you have on hand. While you can buy vegetables and meat with the intent to make broth, it works just as well with the remnants of a veggie tray or an odd piece of uncooked chicken leftover from last night’s dinner.
I use about three different general methods to make broth depending on whether I want 1) vegetarian broth or chicken broth; and 2) whether I’m making the chicken broth with meat I intend to eat or if it’s just scraps. Below are the processes for all three.
For each one, you’ll want to use a big stock pot. When the broth is done, refrigerate what you will use within a few days and pop the rest in the freezer. Then, it will be all ready — with just a few noodles or some veggies — for an easy soup on your next sick day.
Raid your fridge for any leftover bits of vegetables or hearty herbs, like thyme and oregano. Carrots, celery, and onion are classic choices, but don’t shy away from other root vegetables or even mushrooms. The only vegetables to avoid are brassicas (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) — they’ll give the broth an “off” flavor.
The amount of vegetables doesn’t have to be exact and will depend on the size of your pot. To give you a general idea, though, for my 8 quart stock pot, I typically use a whole onion, 2-3 carrots, 2-3 ribs of celery, and a handful of thyme.
Chop the vegetables very roughly, add them to the pot, and fill the pot with water. Bring the water to a gentle simmer, and keep it there for about an hour. Your nose will tell you when it’s finished.
Strain off the vegetables — they’ll be too soggy to eat—and funnel the broth into jars for storage.
Chicken Broth (with chicken scraps)
This is a good method to use if you’ve parted out a whole chicken for a different meal and have pieces leftover (like necks and backs) that you don’t want to eat. I typically collect these scrap pieces and save them in the freezer until I’m ready to make broth. Follow the same instructions as for the vegetable broth, except add your chicken pieces in addition to the vegetables.
Chicken Broth (with chicken you intend to eat)
If you’re boiling chicken to shred for another meal, let the meat do double duty and make some broth, too. First, boil your chicken until it’s cooked as you would normally do. Then, remove the chicken from the water, and — using the water you’ve just cooked the chicken in — follow the instructions for vegetable broth discussed above. Boiling the chicken and the vegetables in two steps means you don’t have to pick through soggy veggies at the end to save the chicken.
Enjoy your delicious homemade soup!
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.