What can you do with two whole chickens? Make a TON of soup! Two chickens will net you over 7 quarts of chicken stock and around 3 quarts of shredded chicken. Two chickens will also conveniently fit into my 921 All-American pressure canner/cooker! It’s kind of cool that I was able to make stock and then turn around a can it all in the same container. Although I will admit I had a bit of a head-scratcher trying to figure out where to put all that stock while I washed the canner and prepared everything for canning. I probably dirtied more dishes than necessary, and next time will probably save the canner for canning. It was a satisfying experiment, anyway.
I decided to can just stock and chicken, so that I could use them as a base for any chicken soup. I make a few different chicken soups and usually the only common ingredients are chicken and stock. At the end of this post are a few of those recipes.
Canning Chicken Soup from Two Whole Chickens
Makes 7 Quarts
(Plus a little extra for immediate consumption!)
What you will need:
- Two Whole Raw Chickens
- 2-3 Carrots, washed and cut into chunks
- 2-3 stalks of Celery, washed and cut into chunks
- 1/2 tsp Onion Salt
- A Pressure Canner – NOTE: You can NOT use a water bath canner when canning low-acid foods like poultry. You must use a pressure canner!
- Canning tools: a plastic ruler, a jar lifter, a lid lifter. You can get a handy little set that includes all these things in the canning aisle at most grocery stores.
First, rinse your chickens well. Make sure there aren’t any remaining feathers (ew) and be sure to rinse the cavity on both ends as well. I admit, cooking with whole chickens is not for the weak. Just take a deep breath and focus on the prize. Once your chickens are rinsed, place them in a 20-quart pot and fill 2/3 of the way with water. Add carrots and celery. You don’t have to be precise with the veggies, just hack them up and throw them in there. They’re just in there to round out the flavor of your stock and will be discarded at the end. Add a few dashes about 1/2 tsp, of onion salt, and bring the water to a boil. Let boil for about 20 minutes, and then check the chicken. It will fall apart easily when it’s done.
While this is boiling, wash your jars and rings. Jars should be kept hot. Either leave them in your dishwasher until you’re ready to fill them, or fill a large pot with water and keep your jars in that. The water does not need to be boiling, just hot. According to my canner’s instruction manual, foods that are going to be processed in a pressure canner do not need to be pre-sterilized.
Once your chickens are done, remove the meat from the bones. Again, not for the weak-stomached. This works the best when you work with hot or warm chicken. I don’t recommend letting the chicken get cold before trying to remove the meat. It comes off much easier when it’s warm. I attacked mine while it was still hot with two forks. It took about 20 minutes to clean both chickens, and once the bones were safely deposited in the trash, I was able to start enjoying the rest of the process. Store all the chicken meat in a bowl and set it aside.
Discard the contents of the strainer, wash your canner (if you used it to make the stock) and let’s can! (Did anyone else start singing Moulin Rouge?)
I experimented here. Everywhere I read said NOT to add noodles to the canning process, and to add them when you’re ready to serve the soup, but I wanted to try adding noodles to see how it would turn out. (See: Noodle Verdict below)
I chose to add noodles to just two jars to experiment what the canning process would do to them. In case it completely destroys them or generates botulism or something, I will only have wasted two quarts.
Next, fill the jars with chicken. I didn’t do this correctly. I actually put some of the chicken back into the stock which, in hindsight, was dumb because later I wished I had put MORE chicken in each jar. So, “learn from my mistake”. (I have a feeling that will be a recurring theme in each post. Eventually I’ll probably have a whole page dedicated to Do What I Say, Not What I Do”.) In your empty jars, fill them about halfway with chicken. Add the stock LAST. Fill the jars within 1-inch of the top. The books recommend measuring it with a ruler to be fairly exact on that 1-inch margin. Once the jars are full, swish a plastic spoon or ruler around in there to release any trapped air bubbles.
Next, wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, wet rag or paper towel. This is a really important step. If there are any food particles left on the rim, it could cause the jar to fail to seal correctly, which in turn will allow evil air to get into your stored jars, botulising them and killing off the lot of you. (I know botulising isn’t a word, but it worked in my sentence and hopefully terrified you into always remembering to wipe your rims!)
Canning lids are supposed to be heated in hot (not boiling) water before use. This sterilizes them for use. If you have a jar lifter, use that to remove them from the hot water. If not, drain the water, use your fingers and move fast! (Or I suppose you could use tongs if you’re a giant wuss or something…) Just set the lid on top of the jar, and screw on the rings. You don’t have to use superhuman strength or ask your husband to do it, just use your own girlie strength to tighten the rings.
Before adding the jars to your canner, make sure there is 3 inches of water in there. After this project, I invested in a 47-cent plastic ruler to keep in the kitchen, so you don’t have to tease me (much) about using a tape measure for this. The water level is important because during the canning process, the water turns to steam, which is what is cooking your food. If you don’t have enough water, you won’t get enough steam, and ultimately you’ll destroy your canner if it goes dry. So always check your water level before adding any jars, and make sure there is a good 3 inches in there. It said all that in my instruction manual, just worded more professionally and with less commas.
When you put the lid on, you’re not supposed to lock one screw at a time. You’re supposed to lock two at a time, opposite each other. It’s also important to make sure the pot is facing forward as well as the lid, so that both warning labels are facing you. (Guess who didn’t do that until her husband pointed it out?) Turn your stove on high and wait. It takes a surprisingly long time for the water to boil, and even longer for it to start venting. For chicken soup, you let it vent for 10 minutes before putting the weight gauge on. After 10 minutes, set the gauge to 10 lbs pressure. Then it takes another 10-15 minutes for it to build pressure. Once the pressure reads 10 psi, the vent will start steaming, hissing, and the gauge will rock a little. Turn the heat down if the pressure continues to climb and find the level of heat needed to keep the pressure level close to 10 psi. The vent will continue to hiss, and the gauge will occasionally rock. Little drops of water will occasionally leak out of the vent, which is normal. At this point, start the clock. 90 minutes for chicken soup!
Check back periodically to ensure the pressure is holding steady at 10 psi. Once the timer goes off, turn off the heat. Don’t touch the gauge yet, wait for the pressure to drop all the way to zero. This took almost 20 minutes for mine to do. Once the pressure hits zero psi, you can remove the weighted gauge. USE A HOT-PAD! Then you can remove the lid. Be sure to lift the back end of the lid first because there will still be steam in there and you don’t want that to blast in your face. Wait 10 minutes, then you can lift the jars out onto a towel. As they cool, you’ll hear a distinctive “pop!”, which is the sound of success! Let the jars completely cool, then take off the rings and check the lids. Just use your fingers. Apply medium pressure and try to pry the lid off. If it pops right off, it obviously did not seal. You should not be able to pry any of the lids off, but if any of them did not seal properly, just store them in your refrigerator and consume within a week. You can try to process them again if you want to, but it’s not really recommended because it may change the flavor or whatever of the food. “Quality of the food will not be as good after reprocessing”, straight from the manual.
Aren’t you so proud of yourself? You just made chicken soup that doesn’t have to be frozen or kept in the fridge. Make sure you label the date on the top and store it in your pantry! You rock!
The Noodle Verdict:
Ok, I waited a week before opening one of the jars that I canned with the noodles. I warmed up the soup on the stove before serving it to my pint-sized taste-testers. Cozy, my 4-year-old picky eater, ate about 6 bites out of habit before announcing, “This soup doesn’t taste very good” (I personally tasted it before serving it to her, it tasted great).
Me: “It doesn’t taste good? What don’t you like about it?” (I had a hunch)
Cozy: “The noodles are melty”
Well, she had me there. The noodles were melty. Soggy doesn’t even begin to describe the outcome of the noodles. They were downright disintegrated. The good news is that it’s completely salvageable. The flavor was delicious, so with the rest of this quart and the other quart I experimented with, I’ll just add fresh noodles. So apparently the rest of the world is right. No noodles in the jars. Huge bummer! How does Campbell’s DO it? I must learn their secret. When I do, I will pass it on to you! And if you know it, help a sister out! Here’s a picture of one of the jars with noodles, you can see that they’re pretty mushy:
Here’s a couple of recipes to use your non-noodled chicken soup with:
Little Ball Soup
Part of my reason for wanting to learn to pressure can in the first place was because I wanted to eliminate Campbell’s soups in my cupboards. Now, Campbell’s has been a longtime favorite of mine, and definitely a favorite for my 4-year-old. There isn’t an easier lunch than opening a can, slopping it into a bowl and microwaving soup for 2 minutes. But there also is very little nutrition in that lunch, so I’ve gradually stopped buying Campbell’s and started making and freezing my own soups. I got a bit of protesting at first from the peanut gallery, but once I started making “Little Ball Soup”, all protests end. This is the simplest chicken noodle soup you can make from scratch, and it became an instant classic in our house.
What you will need:
- 1 quart Versatile Chicken Soup
- 1 cup Acini de Pepe noodles (hence the little balls) if you didn’t already include them in the quart jar.
- 1 tsp Chicken Base (I use Better Than Bullion, which also comes in an organic option)
That’s it. 3 ingredients. You can add carrots or celery or whatever else you like in chicken noodle soup, but I can’t. My picky eater likes carrots, but only if they’re raw. Sometimes I puree cauliflower or carrots or celery to add to the soup, but usually I’m lazy and just do these 3 ingredients. The Base is absolutely necessary, it’s what makes the soup taste like Campbell’s, and what makes my daughter who can talk and my husband declare that I’m the best cook ever. My 1-year-old daughter would say it too if she could talk. So now you know my secret! Boil the quart of Chicken Soup in one pot, boil the noodles in a separate pot. Once the noodles are done, drain them and add them to the Chicken Soup. Stir in the teaspoon of Base, and done!
Chicken Soup with Wild Rice and Beans
What you will need:
- 1 quart Versatile Chicken Soup
- 1 tsp Chicken Base
- 1 can Cannellini Beans (white kidney beans), or 1 pint of home-canned beans (stay tuned for that recipe!)
- 1 cup Wild Rice uncooked
- Carrots, celery, mushrooms, all optional
Cook the rice according to package instructions. Bring the Chicken Soup to a boil, add the beans and any veggies you desire. When the rice is done, add that too. Bring to a boil, then serve!
Stay tuned for Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup! I’ll also discuss how freezing foods plays an easy, important role in food preservation!