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Jewish Recipes: Chicken Soup
Why is Chicken Soup called Jewish Penicillin?
Chicken soup--the Jewish Penicillin. How did that phrase develop?
Well, I can tell you from a personal perspective that chicken soup is a penicillin in my family. And here is why--chicken soup may not heal all ills, but it sure makes you feel better when it is made from scratch.
This article is a discussion of why chicken soup is called Jewish Penicillin, along with some great chicken soup recipes, and some of my grandmother's chicken soup wisdom.
Chicken Soup in My Life - Chicken soup has been a part of many family celebrations
Chicken soup has played a very big role in my life.
The chicken soup recipe handed down in my family was given to us by my grandmother who, of course, didn't really have a recipe. She just put a little bit of this, and a little bit of that in. And it always came out amazing.
I think that my personal experience with "Jewish penicillin" wasn't so much that I was given soup when I was sick, but that it was such a comfort food for me.
It is rare that I get to eat real chicken soup made from scratch anymore. The only time I am sure to eat it is during Passover, when my mom makes everything from scratch. But there is something about the homemade kind of chicken soup that is very warm and cozy from the inside out.
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My Bubbie's Chicken Soup Recipe
Making Jewish Chicken Soup from Scratch
My grandmother's chicken soup recipe is simple, and I will write it here the way she gave it to me, but you may have questions. However, the answer to your questions is this: Make it to your taste.
- Take some chicken parts including bones. Put them in a pot of boiling water. When the scum comes up to the top of the water (that is what she called it), scrape it off the top and throw it away.
- Continue boiling chicken for about an hour. After an hour or so, you can remove the bones and chicken. Then add, onions, carrots, celery, parsley root, parsnip and boil for another 30 minutes or so.
- Add salt, and pepper to taste.
Now you may ask, what about amounts? Well, as old school cooks often did, she never had amounts, and just put stuff in. So what you find is that your soup will turn out slightly differently each time.
I believe myself, that the parsnip makes the biggest difference in the soup. It is good without it, but better with it.
Bubbie never put noodles or rice in her soup, but we do add matzah balls during Passover. Usually she used the chicken to make chicken salad instead of putting it back in the soup.
You often hear that the simplest recipe is the best. I am not sure if it was the recipe, or Bubbie's added love when she made it, but I can tell you, this is still my favorite chicken soup recipe by far.
A great home remedy
We all know that chicken soup has a long held tradition of curing the common cold and flu. After all, Mom and Grandma have been saying that forever.
But what can chicken soup accomplish?
Dr. Stephen Rennard, a specialist in pulmonary medicine, put his wife's grandmother's chicken soup recipe to the test. He concluded that chicken soup actually has a mild medicinal effect, inhibiting inflammation of the cells in the nasal passage, reducing the symptoms of a cold.
So chicken soup really can help you get better!
Mother Wonderful's Chicken Soup
Early one morning, when you know your daughter is having a busy day, call her and say you're catching a cold. Ask if she can spare a few minutes to drive you to a butcher on the other side of town so you can buy a chicken with feet for soup. Everybody knows chicken soup is the best defense against germs...
Hilarious and true to form, this book is for all people who have mothers.
Absolute Best Passover Chicken Broth Recipe - Chicken soup with matzah balls is the best at Passover
You don't have to be Jewish or wait for Passover to make incredible homemade chicken stock. Plan on at least two hours for the flavor of the chicken to leach into the stock. Continue boiling another hour after straining to reduce to a richer stock. Save the skimmed chicken fat (schmaltz) for making matzo balls.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
- 1 whole (3-4 pounds) Empire chicken (the best - but any fresh chicken will do)
- 1 medium turnip quartered
- 2 leeks white part only cleaned thoroughly and quartered
- 1 small rutabaga quartered
- 3 ribs of celery with leaves halved
- 12 parsley stems
- 2 large carrots quartered
- 2 large onions quartered
- 8 peppercorns crushed
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- Kosher or coarse salt
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Clean the chicken and discard giblets or any other presents you've been given in the cavity. Salt the entire chicken inside and out liberally with kosher or coarse salt. Let chicken stand for 35 minutes.
- Wash salt from chicken and place in a medium to large stockpot. Cover chicken with turnip, leeks, rutabaga, celery, parsley, carrots, onions, peppercorns, and thyme. Cover with 4 or 5 quarts of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, occasionally skimming the foam from the top.
- Remove the chicken to a large platter when it is still firm and not falling apart. Remove the meat from the chicken and save for sandwiches (no bread during Passover!) and salads. Then take the bones and return them to the pot and simmer for one more hour.
- Strain the soup into a large bowl and discard everything in the strainer. Refrigerate long enough to allow hardened fat to form on surface, then simply remove the fat. Bring back up to heat with salt and pepper to taste.
Hint: You can add more vegetables at this point or start the process again for a really rich broth. That's the way Chinese chicken stock is prepared sometimes using as many as six or eight chickens.
Sephardic Leek Soup (Sopa de Prasa) Recipe
Sephardic means "from Spanish and Mediterranian Jews"
Leeks are a symbolic food for Rosh Hashanah, but you will enjoy this leek and potato soup year-round. If you prefer a creamy soup, you may process in a food processor. It is delicious either way and may be served warm or cold.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
- 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
- 10 medium (about 2 pounds) leeks, trimmed, sliced and well-washed
- 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and grated OR 3 medium carrots, peeled and grated
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- 8 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (See note)
- Pinch of grated nutmeg (optional)
- Heat the oil in a 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and potatoes. Sauté until softened, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add the parsley, broth, salt and pepper, and nutmeg (optional). Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the contents, covered, 40 minutes, until tender. Serve the soup as is or process in a blender.
- Serve warm or chilled. Adjust seasoning before serving.
Note: White pepper is recommended for appearance in white soups. However, freshly ground black pepper is recommended for taste.
Yield: 6 servings
The Definition of Jewish Penicillin
Why is chicken soup called Jewish penicillin
Jewish penicillin: Chicken soup. If not really a form of penicillin," chicken soup may, in fact, have some therapeutic merit.
A study published in the journal Chest demonstrated that chicken soup may contain substances with beneficial activity including an anti-inflammatory effect that could ease the symptoms of colds and other upper respiratory infections. Chicken soup was found to inhibit neutrophil migration providing a basis for an anti-inflammatory activity. "Undoubtedly, the in vivo effects of chicken soup include more than the effects on neutrophils," the researchers wrote. "The warm liquid, particularly when sipped, can stimulate nasal clearance and may improve upper respiratory tract symptoms." (Rennard BO, Ertl RF, Grossman GL, et al. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest. 2000;18:1150-1157.)
It should be added that to benefit from Jewish penicillin, one need not be Jewish.
Chicken Tortellini Soup Recipe
Thick and hearty chicken soup uses pre-made cheese tortellini pasta and frozen broccoli. This soup takes only 30 minutes of cooking time.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
- 6 large chicken breasts, boned and cooked
- 3 (10-1/2 ounces) cans chicken broth
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cans cream of chicken soup
- 1 (16 ounces) package frozen chopped broccoli
- 1 (9 ounces) package fresh cheese tortellini
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 (8 ounces) carton sour cream
- Save the chicken broth that the chicken was cooked in; you might want to thin the soup.
- In a large stockpot, combine canned chicken broth, celery, and chopped onion. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Add the chicken soup, broccoli, cheese tortellini pasta, pepper, basil, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Bring to boiling point, turn heat down and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in the sour cream.
- This makes a fairly thick soup so if you want it thinner, add a cup of the chicken broth that the chicken was cooked in.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Recipe Source: Mother's Recipes: A Contemporary Collection of Family Treasures by Sheryn R. Jones and Barbara Jones (Cookbook Resources)
Lemony Chicken Soup with Spinach Recipe
Eat your vegetables in your soup
Chicken soup with spinach, lemon juice, leeks, barley, carrots, and herbs is fast to make in the pressure cooker. Try the included variation for a Thai version with lemongrass and shrimp.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
- 1 Tablespoon butter or oil
- 3-1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks or coarsely chopped onions
- 4 cups water
- 3 pound chicken parts, preferably thighs, skinned
- 3 large ribs celery, cut into 1-inch slices
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
- 2 large bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- Salt to taste
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1-1/2 pounds fresh spinach, trimmed, chopped, and thoroughly rinsed, or 2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped
- 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
- 4 to 5 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 juicy lemons)
- Over medium-high heat, heat the butter in the pressure cooker until it begins to foam. Cook the leeks, stirring frequently, until they soften, about 5 minutes. (If using onions, for a sweeter taste, cook them, covered, over low heat for an additional 5 minutes, stirring from time to time.) Add the water and bring to a boil as you prepare and add the chicken parts, celery, carrots, barley, bay leaves, thyme, and salt.
- Lock the lid in place. Over high heat, bring to high pressure. Lower the heat to maintain high pressure and cook for 12 minutes. Quick-release the pressure by setting the cooker under cold, running water. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow any excess steam to escape.
- With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken parts to a cutting board. Taste the barley, and if it is still hard (it should be chewy but tender), return to high pressure for 3 minutes more.
- Spoon off any fat visible on the surface. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Stir in the chicken broth and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and boil the soup over medium heat until the spinach is tender, about 2 minutes for fresh and 5 minutes for frozen.
- When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone and chop or shred it into bite-sized pieces. Return to the cooker. When the chicken is good and hot, turn off the heat and stir in the dill, lemon juice, and salt to taste.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Variation: Thai-Inspired Chicken Soup:
- Substitute one 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk for 2 cups of the water. Omit the thyme and cook the soup with the finely chopped bulbs of 2 stalks fresh lemongrass. You may add 4 to 6 ounces small, shelled shrimp at the end and boil over medium heat until they turn pink, 1 to 2 minutes. Substitute cilantro or basil for the dill and use lime juice instead of lemon. Season with Japanese soy sauce (tamari or shoyu) instead of salt.
Note: If you cannot find fresh lemongrass, look for Thai Kitchen's lemongrass bottled in a light brine. Do not use dried lemongrass.
What is Your Chicken Soup Preference? - How do you like to eat your chicken soup?
What size noodles are the best?
Mulligatawny Soup Recipe - A hearty chicken soup meal
Hearty chicken soup is rich with onions, carrots, celery, sweet bell peppers, tomatoes, rice, spices, and cream. Mulligatawny soup is originally a dish from southern India using chicken (or sometimes other meats) and is flavored with curry powder. You may cut back on the curry to suit your tastes, but do use some.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
- 3 Tablespoons butter or margarine
- 2 small yellow onion, peeled and minced
- 1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and diced fine
- 1 stalk celery, diced fine
- 1/2 green pepper, cored, seeded, and minced
- 1/4 cup unsilfted flour
- 1 Tablespoon curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3 cloves
- 2 sprigs parsley
- 1 quart chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup diced cooked chicken
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup boiled rice
- Melt butter in a large saucepan, add onion, carrot, celery, and green pepper, and stir-fry 8 to 10 minutes until onion is golden. Blend in flour, curry powder, and nutmeg. Add cloves, parsley, broth, salt, pepper, and tomatoes, cover, and simmer 1 hour.
- Strain broth; pick out and discard cloves and parsley, puree vegetables with about 1 cup soup liquid by buzzing 20 to 30 seconds in an electric blender at low speed or 15 to 20 seconds in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade.
- Smooth puree into broth, return to heat, add chicken and cream, and heat, stirring, 5 to 10 minutes to blend flavors. Add rice, heat and stir 2 to 3 minutes longer, then serve.
Yield: 6 servings
Recipe Source: The New Doubleday Cookbook by Jean Anderson and Elaine Hanna (Doubleday)
Does chicken soup really cure?
Is it Jewish penicillin?
The scientific verdict is still out on this question. It certainly seems to help those with colds and congestion, but may not necessarily be the best choice for an upset stomach unless it is fat-free.
Some studies seem to indicate definite healing properties of chicken soup while others indicate any hot soup can produce the same result. Doctors do seem to agree that a hot savory broth helps open nasal passages and soothe the throat for a period of up to half an hour. Sipping soup through a straw does not produce the same beneficial result as consuming the hot soup with a spoon. Clearly the vapor and aroma are important factors.
Clear soups provide necessary sustenance and hydration while helping to stimulate the appetite. Certainly there is also a mental factor involved. Memories of home, being pampered by Mom with soup as a child, or just the warm feeling of the hot soup in the stomach strongly come into play. We all know that love is good medicine, and it is a strong component of soup.
Lancaster Chicken Corn Soup Recipe
Saffron gives color and flavor to this homemade chicken soup filled with noodles or homemade rivels and corn. You may use fresh or frozen corn. If you wish to freeze the soup, cool and do so before adding the pasta.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
- 1 (4- to 5-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 2-1/2 to 3 quarts water, or as needed
- 1 large onion
- 8 to 10 black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 8 to 10 threads of saffron, or 1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron (optional)
- 10 ears of corn, or 4 cups frozen corn kernels
- 3 celery stalks, diced with leaves
- 6 ounces wide egg noodles, packaged egg barley, or Rivels (see below)
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 2/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of ground white pepper
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3/4 to 1 cup all-purpose flour, as needed
To Make Soup:
- Place chicken in soup pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and skim foam as it rises to the surface. When it has subsided, add onion, peppercorns, salt, and saffron. Simmer gently but steadily, partly covered, for about 1-1/2 hours or until tender.
- Remove chicken. Trim and discard bones and skin, and onion. Let soup cool, then skim fat from surface. Tear meat into spoonable pieces and return to soup.
- Cut kernels from 4 ears of corn, then grate kernels from remaining 6 ears, catching all milk and pulp on foil or waxed paper. If using frozen kernels, puree half in a food processor or blender, adding a little soup if liquid is needed. Add whole kernels and grated or pureed corn to soup along with celery and noodles, egg barley, or rivels.
- Simmer gently until corn and noodles or rivels are cooked. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Stir in parsley and serve, garnishing each portion with chopped hard-cooked egg.
- This soup freezes well, but do that before adding the noodles, barley, or dumplings. Prepare those when reheating soup. To prevent scorching during reheating, place the pot over an asbestos mat or on other insulating plate.
To Make Rivels:
- Stir salt and pepper into egg and add 2/3 cup flour and beat. Keep adding and beating in flour until mixture is crumbly but a bit sticky.
- Rub between hands or pinch off pea-size pieces and drop them into simmering soup.
- Cover loosely and let cook for about 15 minutes or until rivels solidify.
- To make the rivels ahead of time, cook them in lightly salted boiling water or some extra soup stock and then drain and reserve them to be reheated in the soup just before it is served.
Yield: 8 to 10 first-course servings; 4 to 6 main-course servings
Recipe Source: The Whole World Loves Chicken Soup: Recipes and Lore to Comfort Body and Soul by Mimi Sheraton (Warner Books)
Watch Out for the Chicken Feet in Your Soup
Embarrassed to introduce his friend to his old-fashioned Italian grandmother, a young boy gains a new appreciation of her when he finds how well she and his friend get along.
Tortilla Soup (El Torito's Sopa de Tortilla) Recipe - Mexican Penicillin?
This hearty chicken soup with a Mexican flavor is loaded with chicken, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. It is a crowd-pleaser at the popular El Torito restaurant chain in California. To save time, use cooked rotisserie chicken from the market or your own leftover chicken.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
- 7 cups chicken broth
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1/2 bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 potato, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- Salt to taste
- White ground pepper to taste
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached and shredded
- 3 corn tortillas
- Vegetable oil
- 1-1/2 cups shredded Jack cheese
- 8-10 slices avocado
- Cilantro sprigs
- In large pot, combine chicken broth, onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper, potatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, garlic, and oregano. Season to taste and bring to boil. Simmer 25 minutes.
- Add zucchini, tomatoes, and shredded chicken breast pieces. Bring to boil, then simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Cut tortillas into matchstick size strips. Sauté in hot oil until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
- To serve, place tortilla strips in individual bowls. Cover with shredded cheese and ladle in soup. Top with slice of avocado and cilantro sprig.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Recipe Source: El Torito Restaurant chain, California
New England Soup Factory Cookbook: More Than 100 Recipes from the Nation's Best Purveyor of Fine Soup - Soup to Comfort You in the Winter
Marjorie Druker is passionate about soups. She fell in love with soups when she first heard the story Stone Soup. After attending Johnston & Whales, Marjorie created the menu for the popular Boston Market restaurant chain, and soups were always her favorite. "My niche is taking what people like to eat and turning it into a soup," she says.
These recipes are included in this book:
New England Clam Chowder
Wild Mushroom and Barley Soup
Curried Crab and Coconut Soup
Chicken, Bacon, and White Bean Soup Portugese-Style Recipe
This soup makes a whole meal
White beans, bacon, shallots, and garlic add tremendous flavor to Portuguese-style chicken soup. This makes a hearty meal in a bowl. Plan ahead to soak the beans overnight or save yourself some time and used drained canned beans. If you use canned beans, reduce the simmering time to 15 minutes and add the beans along with the chicken and bacon at the end.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
- 1 pound dried white beans, such as white kidney (cannellini) or great Northern, rinsed and picked over
- 1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch wide pieces
- 2 cups chopped yellow onions
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 2 Tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 quarts chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
- 3/4 pound diced cooked chicken
- 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
- Put the beans into a large pot or bowl. Add water to cover by 2 inches and soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. Then drain. (For a quick soak, bring the beans and water to a boil over high heat and cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to stand for 1 hour. Drain.)
- Fry the bacon in a heavy medium stockpot over medium-high heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift onto paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pot.
- Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots soften, about 1 minute.
- Add the beans to the pot with the stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
- Stir in the chicken and the reserved bacon and heat through. Remove and discard bay leaves.
- Ladle into warm bowl and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
Yield: 8 to 12 servings
Recipe Source: "Prime Time Emeril: More TV Dinners from America's Favorite Chef" by Emeril Lagasse (William Morrow)
© 2008 Paula Atwell