Soup

Better Than “Better Than Bouillon” Chicken Base

Chicken Base!

Chicken Base!

It’s here!  I know you’ve been breathlessly waiting for this post!  Or not.  Pretend for me anyway?

Actually, I made this about a month ago.

But then I turned 30 and people threw me a party and gave me a beautiful brand-new road bike and I’ve been gazing longingly at it for a week straight now.  I even took it out for a spin, but the country winds and 20-degree chill encouraged me back home to my warm living room where I could resume gazing:)

Don't judge my outfit...I live in the country!  No one sees me unless I put pictures of myself on the Internet...oh, wait...

Don’t judge my outfit…I live in the country! No one sees me unless I put pictures of myself on the Internet…oh, wait…

Anyway, I mentioned on this podcast that I wanted to learn how to make my own chicken base.  Since then, hundreds of people (ok, one person) have asked me if I’ve made it yet, so I’m happy to report that I have!  And it’s pretty easy to do!

Disclaimer- sorry about the terrible pictures…  I lost my camera for about two weeks and had to use my iPod to take pictures.  Fortunately, my husband found my camera, and it turns out it was right where I left it.  In the last place I looked.  (All those childhood memories of Mom saying those things coming back to you yet?  I have more!)

 

 

 

 

Chicken Base

Read through the directions first!  You need to refrigerate the stock before adding all the veggies!

What you will need:  (Recipe can be doubled)

  • one whole chicken 
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 whole onion (or onion salt if you forgot to buy onions…), chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic salt
  • turmeric
  • stick blender or food processor

Directions:

  1. Place rinsed whole chicken in large stockpot, cover with water so the water is about 1-2 inches above the top of the chicken.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked. 
  2. Remove chicken to cutting board.  Allow to cool slightly, then remove all meat from bones, returning bones to stockpot.  If possible, snap some of the smaller bones in half so the bone marrow will cook into your stock!  I know it sounds gross, but it is very good for you! Reserve chicken meat, you will be adding some of it back in at the end.
  3. Boil the bones for another 30 minutes or until they are “clean” (nearly no meat left on them at all).  At this point, the easiest method for removing all the bones is to strain the broth into a new, smaller pot.
  4. Refrigerate stock overnight.  Once completely cooled, the fat will rise to the top and you can easily skim it off.  Return to stove, bring to a boil.
  5. Add celery, onions, carrots, salt and pepper to taste (like 1/2 tsp of each, you can add more later), turmeric to color.  (By color, I mean add it until your broth is a nice yellow color that looks attractive to you.  Or don’t add it at all if those things don’t matter to you.  Personally, a yellow broth tricks my brain into thinking it’s gourmet.  I know that’s weird, but who am I to argue with my brain?)
  6. Now the boring fun part.  Bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat so it is boiling gently, not too hard.  Now walk away and find something else to for an hour while your stock reduces.  This amount of time will depend heavily on your broth-to-vegetable ratio.  The more broth you have, the longer this will take to reduce, of course.  Once your stock has reduced to about half, add 1 cup of chicken meat back in.  Using a stick blender (also referred to as an immersion blender) or transferring your stock to a food processor, puree all ingredients.  If your base is still thin, continue to gently boil until it is reduced to the thickness you desire.  You could also add more chicken and puree that in, as that will also increase the consistency as well as the protein content!

Whisking in ClearJel

A couple of notes:

  • I added the vegetables after the bones were drained so you wouldn’t have to try to fish all the bones out amongst the veggies.  Since it needs to reduce anyway, there’s time for the veggies to cook down.
  • I added the chicken last after the first reduction because I believe overcooked chicken isn’t going to make this taste all that amazing.
  • You will probably need to add more salt at the end.  When you taste it, it should taste way too salty.  Keep in mind that you are adding this to water or broth to enhance the flavor of your soups!  (It’s also a sneaky way to get picky eaters to eat veggies and chicken!)
  • I looked everywhere on the Internet for chicken base recipes, and didn’t find anything very specific, so this is very unscientific, of course!  I did read somewhere that cooking the bones too long will also result in an undesirable taste, I have never stumbled upon that misfortune though.  But I thought I’d warn you.  Probably cooking them just until all the meat falls off is sufficient.
  • I was going for a very similar product to Better Than Bouillon, because that’s what I buy and like.  I could not get it to the exact consistency to BTB, so I tried adding ClearJel to some of it to experiment (because at that point I was still planning on canning it, and you can use ClearJel to can with, unlike cornstarch).  I do not recommend this to you because while it did thicken it to the consistency I wanted, it also deadened the taste substantially and I had to add a lot more salt than I would have preferred.  The rest of my base that I did not thicken with ClearJel, while thin, did not require as much added salt to achieve the taste my family likes.  The next time I make this, I will add more chicken, which will help it be closer to the BTB consistency I so desire.  The nice part about that is you can always add more and more chicken since it’s the last thing you do!  (I don’t know why I didn’t think of that when I was cooking it.  Hindsight. 20/20. ‘Nuff said.)
Base with ClearJel on the right - Just to show consistency differences

Base with ClearJel on the right – Just to show consistency differences

  • I ended up freezing my base into ice cube trays rather than canning it.  I still plan on canning it in the future, I just ran out of desire to spend any more time in the kitchen this particular day.  The ice cube tray method works perfectly though, and is just as convenient as canning it, I think.  To use it, I just add one or two cubes to my soups and they melt right in!  It’s pretty cool, actually, and I feel a little bit like a genius.  I can see the Pin now:  “One ice cube tray of chicken base equals 8 quarts of broth!”  Or whatever.  Pinterest is annoying.  And cool.  I’m annoyed by all the make-your-life-easier stuff on it and yet I’m wildly addicted to it.  I need a Pinners Anonymous Group or something.  PAG.
  • I’m in a weird mood today.
  • Your base may have turned out differently than mine.  You will have to play around with experimenting to find exactly what your taste buds like.  Start with one cube per quart, and if that isn’t flavorful enough, add another one.  I actually added up to 4 cubes to one soup I made where I had started with water!  If you start with broth, you’ll need less base.
About 2 cubes will flavor 1 quart of water (4 cups) for delicious Chicken Soup!

About 2 cubes will flavor 1 quart of water or broth (4 cups) for delicious Chicken Soup!

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Categories: Freezing, Low-Acid, Poultry, Soup | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Basic Tomato Sauce and Condensed Tomato Soup

I’ve been making my own tomato sauce for several years now and have gotten into a certain…rhythm.  It’s not a difficult process, per se, but it is time consuming and extremely messy.  So messy, in fact, that the first time I made tomato sauce as an adult (without the tutelage of my wise mother) I swore I would never put myself through such an ordeal again.   My kitchen was a disaster and my sauce turned out thin and uninspiring.  In fact, I didn’t even use some of the quarts I had canned because looking at them brought back such unpleasant memories!   (Who says cooking isn’t an emotional experience?)

Those days are gone.  I’ve trial-and-error’d tomato sauce to a Chelsea Perfection: a rhythm I am pleased with, and a product I am thrilled with.  There is no need to blanch and peel the tomatoes, and all you need is a food processor and a strainer!

Step 1 – Choosing Tomatoes:  Choose the right kind of tomatoes!  If you can, use at least 50% of your batch with Romas.  They are small but meaty, and will give you the consistency of sauce you desire.  I like to blend 3-4 kinds of tomatoes to get the best flavors.  This year I planted and harvested Romas, 2 kinds of Heirlooms, and Better Boys.  Or Big Boys.  Or Early Girls.  I can’t remember.  I’m not sure it matters.  They’re red and if you let them get very ripe on the vine they have an amazing flavor…or so claims my husband.  I hate raw tomatoes, but adore all tomato products.  I know, I’m weird.

Step 2  – Preparing Tomatoes: Wash the tomatoes, slice in half, and cut out any blemishes, spots, cracks and the cores.  I then quarter them, and throw them all into a stainless steel pot.  According to the Ball Book of Home Preserving, “the acid in tomatoes can react with aluminum, copper, brass, galvanized or iron equipment, creating bitter flavors and undesirable colors”.  Turn the heat on medium, and cook them down into a mush.  Sometimes I even take a potato masher and make sure the chunks are practically liquified.  This isn’t totally necessary, but it does help to speed the process up a little.

Step 3 – Process and Strain: Here comes the messy parts!  I set up a work station like this:

Tomatoes in pot on stove (yes, I realize this is not a stainless steel pot. I’m a rebel.), next is food processor, next is the pot sauce will get strained into, then a waste bowl for the seeds and skins.

Once the tomatoes are completely cooked down, and resemble sauce more than whole tomatoes, break out your food processor.  Ladle a few cups of mush into the food processor and blend for several seconds.  Then transfer the liquid to your strainer.  Jiggle the strainer a bit to get all the juice through, then – with moderate force – bang the strainer down on the edge of the bowl to encourage the sauce through.  This doesn’t take very long, less than a minute.  There is no need to use a spoon to force it through, just do a variety of bang-bang-jiggle-jiggle’s on the side of the bowl.

Bang-Bang-Jiggle-Jiggle!

Once all the sauce is forced through the strainer, all that is left is the skins and seeds!

Step 4 Reduce Sauce:  Once all the mush has been processed and strained, return the pure sauce to the pan.  I usually rinse or wash the pan first, to make sure there aren’t any rogue seeds left in there.  Now assess your sauce.  Is it already the consistency you desire?  If so, you are ready to can, freeze or use it.  If it’s still a little thin then you want to reduce it.  Reduce is a word that the meaning of which eluded me the first time I made sauce.  What reduce means, in the cooking world, is to bring your sauce to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer, and let the sauce simmer for some time until the amount of sauce has decreased.  What happens during this time is that the juice evaporates, and the overall quality of the sauce thickens.  Depending on the type of tomatoes you use, sometimes you need to reduce your sauce by half!  (Meaning, you will get 2 quarts instead of 4!)  Try not to let this discourage you, as it did me at first.  You will be much happier with a thicker sauce when the time comes to use it, and even though it seems frustrating to “lose” half your sauce, you really want a nice, thick sauce in the end.

So anyway, if you need to reduce your sauce, do it now.  This might take an hour, so be patient.  Keep the heat on simmer and stir occasionally.  I usually need to reduce my sauce by a third, using the 3-4 kinds of tomatoes that I use, and it takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Your finished product is a pure, no-additives, nice, thick tomato sauce from scratch!  At this point, you can use it, transfer it to freezer-safe jars or bags (you should let it cool first!), or you can can it.

Step 5 – Clean your kitchen!  Messy stuff, eh?

Canning Tomato Sauce

How much sauce you will yield will depend on how many pounds of tomatoes you started with, and how much you needed to reduce your sauce.  It’s highly variable.  I usually get about 3 quarts out of a full large stockpot of quartered tomatoes.  You will really have to play it by ear and hold off on preparing your jars and lids until your sauce is done so you can eyeball it and see how many jars you will need.

See the canning process for a boiling-water canner here, (you can also pressure can tomato sauce…more on that at a later date!) adding these steps:

  • Tomato products need bottled lemon juice added.  Add 1 tablespoon to pints and 2 tablespoons to quarts.
  • Process pints for 35 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes.

Jars acclimating to room temperature

Condensed Tomato Soup

Makes 4 pints.

In my quest to rid my cupboards of Campbell’s (*sniff* I love Campbell’s!), I needed to come up with a condensed tomato soup version.  I could just make a delicious tomato soup and freeze it like a normal person, but normal people think ahead and pull stuff out of the freezer the day before they want it.  I never know I want tomato soup until about 10 minutes before I HAVE to have it, so freezer soup isn’t gonna cut it!  There’s also that tricky problem that you’re not really supposed to can anything with thickeners or dairy due to heat’s inability to penetrate those types of fat for safe consumption.  SO, I’m shooting for a product very similar to Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup.  Open jar, add milk, microwave.  Yum.  Here’s what I came up with, and it’s shockingly easy.

What you need:

  • 8 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • bottled lemon juice

Directions:

1. Bring sauce to a boil, add sugar.  Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to each pint.  Follow these basic steps for canning with a boiling-water canner, and process pints for 35 minutes.

2. When ready to use, open jar and dump into bowl.  Add half a pint (1 cup) of milk, and warm on stove or in microwave.  I usually add shredded cheese to my soup (I like a lot of cheese.  Like, a ridiculous handful.  And I wonder why I’m chubby.)  Serve alone or with grilled cheese sandwiches!  (No, the grilled cheese sandwiches do not always replace the insane amount of cheese I put in my soup.  I have problems.)

The Verdict:

It tastes very similar to Campbell’s!  It’s a little more tangy, which I like.  I am absolutely thrilled to be able to have the convenience of canned soup that tastes almost exactly like the real thing without all the cons – BPA, high fructose corn syrup, etc.  It’s a keeper!

Categories: Canning, Freezing, High-Acid, Soup, Tomatoes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wedding Soup with Arugula

I was first introduced to Italian Wedding Soup at Sebastiano’s,  a delicious local restaurant in Toledo, Ohio.  It was a huge step toward “adventuresome eating” for me back then, in my picky days.  A step my stomach has oft thanked my brain for, if not my thighs.

I had to have easier access to this soup from then on.  My first attempt at Italian Wedding Soup failed pretty miserably.  Not only did my bland homemade meatballs cause my husband to put on his pretend “yummy!” face, but I also added beef broth where I should have added chicken.  Yeah, it was bad.  I tinkered with online recipes for awhile, coming close to Sebastiano’s delicious creation but gradually becoming weary of how time consuming it all was.

And then I struck gold.  Polish gold.  It all began one steamy August day, where our thoughts and actions were consumed with the task of painting our massive giant deck on our previous house.  We were preparing the house to sell it, and begged invited some good friends to come over and help us paint and simultaneously celebrate Ty’s birthday.  If our charm and good looks didn’t convince them to come do manual labor, then the out-of-this-world amazing kielbasa from Stanley’s did!  So we painted, cooked, laughed, and enjoyed each other.  It’s amazing what kielbasa can get people to do!

Stanley’s kielbasa from Toledo, Ohio, is hands-down, the best kielbasa ever. Don’t be intimidated by their location…it’s so worth it!

 

Fortunately, we over-purchased kielbasa.  I was faced with an unexpected challenge.  What to do with leftover kielbasa?  Has such a thing ever happened before?  Then it hit me:  Soup.  Wedding Soup.

The first batch was good…REALLY good.  I made it with spinach, because it was all I had, and because I didn’t know better.

The second batch was epic.  I made it with arugula this time, and ever since then it has earned it’s place in my freezer as a go-to meal for chilly nights.  Or steamy August nights, if the taste buds demand it.

The best part is, you won’t believe how easy this soup is.  However, since we’re borrowing the main ingredient from Poland, I don’t think we can truly call it “Italian Wedding Soup”.  (Can we call it “Chelsea’s Wedding Soup?  🙂 )  But since I insist that you use Acini de Pepe noodles, you can’t really call it “Polish Wedding Soup” either.  So let’s call it what it is, a beautifully blended mix of history, ethnicity, and love from the kitchen.

American Wedding Soup

What you will need:

  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth
  • 2 cups arugula (more if you like it peppery…more is better)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2lbs uncooked kielbasa
  • 1 cup uncooked Acini de Pepe (or orzo, if you can’t find the AdP)
  • chopped carrots and celery – optional
  • 1tsp chicken base – also optional, but I always use it.
  • fresh Parmesan – not really optional.  You’ll want it.

Directions:

Fill a large stock pot (4-6 quart size) with your chicken stock.  Place the onion, carrots, celery and uncooked kielbasa in the broth and bring to a boil.

When the kielbasa start to float (around 15 minutes), pull them out, reduce broth to a simmer, and slice them into 1/2 chunks on a cutting board. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and cook pasta al dente.  (7 minutes)

It’s okay if there’s still some pink, it’s going to finish cooking in the pot.  Return to broth.  Tear arugula in halves or quarters and add to broth, bringing broth back to a low boil.

When the arugula is no longer bright green and looks somewhat wilted, add drained pasta.  Boil for 3 more minutes or so, check some of the kielbasa chunks to make sure they are cooked through.  Taste test: if it’s still slightly bland, add some chicken base until it reaches the appropriate level of saltiness.  Then serve!  Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese for an added Wow!

It may not be authentic, but it’s authentically good.

Man, that was cheesy.  Good thing I like cheese!

Someone make me stop!

P.S. You can freeze this soup nicely, even with the noodles in it, although admittedly it’s always better to add the noodles fresh.

P.P.S. If you’ve never been to Sebastiano’s, then you haven’t lived.  There isn’t a bad thing on the menu!

Categories: Freezing, Leftovers, Soup | Tags: , , , , ,

Tomato Basil Soup from Actual Tomatoes

I’ve never made my own tomato soup before.  I have, however, consumed approximately 8,000,000 cans of tomato soup over the last 2, almost 3 decades.  I’m sure that’s not much of an exaggeration, either.  It’s kind of ironic how much I love tomato soup and all tomato products because until recently, I wouldn’t touch a raw tomato with a 10-foot pole.  I’ve since matured drastically in a culinary sense (I’ve even started eating mushrooms!  Gasp!) and no longer sneer at tomatoes, even gone as far as ceasing to pick them off of menu items.  So lately it’s occurred to me that it’s high time to finally make my own tomato soup, for once and for all.

Are you starting to worry that this is becoming more of a blog on soup than it is on preserving?  Me too.  I have an addiction!

But in my defense, it was a pretty crappy day.

No sun in sight.  Rain, dreariness, inside activities.  All signs that point toward soup.

Okay, here’s the scoop:  Everyone has a thing, right?  Well, I go in phases.  I guess you could even say phases are my thing.  The phase I’m going through right now is that commercially canned foods are from the devil because of BPA, even though I’m not even entirely sure what BPA is or why it’s from the devil.  (You can read the link, but if you’re like me all you’ll get from that is “don’t eat it, it’s from the devil”) But whatever, that’s my thing.  So anyway, the point of telling you that is because I had a really hard time finding tomato soup recipes that were truly from scratch.  They all used canned tomatoes, which are apparently some of the worst offenders for the whole BPA thing, so obviously I don’t want to use them.

So here’s a quick tutorial on making tomato sauce.  We’ll revisit this in about a month when the tomatoes are in season, but they’re pretty cheap in the stores right now anyway, so maybe this is useful information now!

Tomato Sauce (makes about 1 quart)

What you will need:

  • 8 big juicy tomatoes, like beefsteak or big boys
  • 8 Roma tomatoes
  • a strainer
  • a food processor
  • a pot
  • a plethora of paper towels or a heavy duty sponge

Directions:

The first step is to wash the tomatoes.  Next, we’re going to blanch them to remove the peels easier.  You do this by bringing a pot of water to a boil.  For the larger tomatoes, you might want to cut them in half, but it’s not necessary.  Just a little easier.  Once the water is boiling, you carefully place the tomatoes in the water for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Then remove them, and with a tongs or a fork, peel the skin away.  It should peel away without much effort.  If it’s still sticking, return the tomato to the boiling water for another 30 seconds. You can technically skip this step since we’re going to strain the tomatoes anyway, but I think it makes straining so much easier to get rid of the peels first.

Next, empty the water from the pan, cut up the tomatoes into halves or quarters and return them to the empty pan.

Heat, stirring often, over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until they look like this:

This is when I start salivating, and my husband – who worked in a tomato factory as a teen – leaves the house.  Once the tomatoes have boiled down to a chunky sauce, turn the heat off and bring out the food processor.  Load up the food processor and puree the tomatoes. Depending on the size of your processor, you may need empty and re-load to process all the tomatoes.

Now it’s time to strain out the seeds!  The best way I’ve found to do this is by using a strainer.  (Go figure) Ladle one or two scoops of puree at a time into the strainer, and hold over an empty bowl or pan.  BANG the strainer on the bowl to get all the “meat” through.  This is much faster and more effective than pressing the puree with a spoon.  It does make a little bit of a mess, but that’s what the sponge is for!

This is what the strainer should look like after you’ve smacked all the meat out of it:

Just the seeds and whatever didn’t boil down is left!  All the good saucy meat made it through!  Once you’ve done this to all of the puree, return the sauce to the stove and bring to a boil.

Now, from this point, if you just want sauce, you’ll bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for about an hour until the sauce is the consistency you prefer.  From here you could can the sauce or freeze if you aren’t going to immediately use it.

But since we are going to immediately use it, go ahead and let it simmer down for 30 minutes or so, or until it’s thicker than a soup consistency.  Now we make soup!  I used this recipe for the base of my soup.

Tomato Basil Soup 

What you will need:

Directions:

Follow the directions from the above link, substituting the tomato sauce for the cans of tomatoes.  Add the cheese to the soup at the very end while the soup is simmering hot and allow it to completely melt and become one with the soup.  It really adds a heartiness and amps up the “comfort” level (aka, calories…) of the soup!

 

The Verdict

It turned out really good, although in typical Chelsea fashion it was a little trial by error.  I started with only about a pint of sauce so it wasn’t a rich enough “tomato” flavor for me, but once I added more sauce I liked it.  You can skip my sauce and just make it with cans of devil tomatoes like the recipe calls for, which is probably more accurate than my rendition.  We got several meals out of this!  The first meal was served with a hunk of homemade bread (which I almost burned, but still turned out pretty good), another meal was served with lemon cream pasta (which I added sauteed garlic too…a must!), and the last meal was served on this rainy June day with…duh…grilled cheese!  As I was making grilled cheese I got feisty and threw some cheddar into the soup as it was heating up (Ok, I’m lying.  It wasn’t cheddar.  It was fake plastic American cheese.  Also from the devil, but somehow not a part of my current thing.) and that made all the difference in the world!  Now imagine if I had used real cheddar!  That didn’t surprise my husband at all when I did that because I’m well known for adding half a block of shredded cheese to my tomato soup. So rather than make you discover this happy pairing by perchance, I figured I’d just add it to the recipe.

An Important Afterthought

Oh yeah!  This is a food preservation blog… I keep getting distracted by recipes and the actual consuming of the food!  If you want to make up a bunch and pressure-can it, do not add the cream.  That has to be added as you heat it because it’s not recommended to can dairy.  If you choose to can this soup, process quarts at 10 lbs pressure for 30 minutes and pints for 25 minutes.  You could also eliminate the carrots and chicken broth and can it in a water-boiling canner, processing quarts for 40 minutes and pints for 35.  Either way, pressure-canned or water-boiled, you do need to add 2 Tbsp to quarts and 1 Tbsp to pints of bottled lemon juice (fresh squeezed lemon juice doesn’t contain the appropriate amount of acidity). If canning is not for you, you can always freeze it!  I ended up adding the cream to mine and freezing it, because as a life-long yo-yo dieter I just don’t make a habit of keeping cream in the house, so I wanted to use it all before it a) went bad or b) tempted me to dip chocolate chip cookies in it.

Cheers!

Categories: Canning, Freezing, High-Acid, Soup

Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

Part of my quest in canning is to eliminate all commercially canned items from my pantry.  A big one, especially around any of the winter holidays is Campbell’s condensed cream soups.  I mean, who wants to just eat regular old vegetables when you can smother them in creamy goodness and bake every last nutrient out?  Okay, fine, I’ll eat vegetables the way God intended them for most of the year.  But when it’s a holiday, by golly I will make them taste good!  And yes, my birthday counts as a holiday.  So do Friday nights.

This is a pretty good recipe!  It doesn’t taste exactly like Campbell’s, but I would actually dare to say it is better.  It has a richer, more honest flavor.  I did add a little extra salt because we’re so used to Campbell’s, and I am still gradually weaning my family off of a high-sodium lifestyle. I got the recipe from Six Sister’s Stuff.  That link will take you to a delicious recipe, including how to make your own Hidden Valley Ranch spice packet!  I made that the same night as this cream of chicken soup, mixed it together and served it with chicken over rice.  It was pretty tasty, but I want to try their slow cooker recipe with pork chops next.

Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup                                                                            (Yields 3 cups of soup, which is equal to about 2 cans of Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Chicken.)

What you will need:

1 1/2 cups chicken broth*
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp parsley
1/8 tsp paprika
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup flour (can use gluten free flour)

Directions:
1. In medium-sized saucepan, boil chicken broth, 1/2 cup of the milk, and the seasonings for a minute or two (longer if using fresh onions or garlic).
2. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of milk and flour. Add to boiling mixture and continue whisking briskly until mixture boils and thickens.
*This is especially flavorful if you make your own chicken stock!
I doubled this recipe, used some for dinner that night, refrigerated some more for another meal, and froze the rest!  It’s not recommended to can foods with dairy, unfortunately, because the fat in dairy could encapsulate any bacteria in the product, and even the heat from pressure canning isn’t high enough to permeate it.  That’s fine, just freeze it!  I agree it would be more convenient to be able to can it, but it probably isn’t worth the risk.
Categories: Freezing, Leftovers, Low-Acid, Poultry, Soup

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

Since I did not put as much chicken into my quarts as I should have when I canned chicken soup, I had lots of leftover chicken to use up.  This is hardly a problem around here, and when in doubt, into soup it shall go!  I decided to freeze what we didn’t eat to show you an easy way to preserve foods by freezing.  (Ok, truthfully, I hadn’t even cleaned out my pressure canner yet, and was kind of dreading doing so!  It’s heavy!)

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

What you will need:

Directions:

Chop veggies and add to pot.  I also added more chicken since I didn’t have enough in my quarts that I canned.                                  

Add the quart of chicken soup and bring to a boil.  Add base, and several handfuls of washed spinach or arugula.  No need to chop the spinach, it will naturally shrivel up to bite-sized pieces in the hot soup!  I’ve made this with spinach and arugula, and I would say the arugula lends a better, peppery flavor.  

In a separate pan, bring the orzo and about 2 cups of water to a boil.  You don’t want to add uncooked pasta or rice to your soup because it will soak up all your lovely stock! 

Cook it in water (or different stock or broth) and add it once the orzo is tender and the remaining water has been drained.

Bring back to a boil, add generous amounts of lemon juice.  I would say it needs about 1/2 cup.  I would start with 1/4 cup, taste it, and decide what it needs.  If it needs more lemon, add more juice.  If it needs more salt, add more base.  Add base by 1/2 teaspoons at a time, because too much base is difficult to fix!  (Learned that on lobster bisque – DOH!) Add a little pepper, and voila!  I served this on our date-night with homemade garlic bread.  (Quick recipe: leftover hamburger buns opened, spread with butter, liberally doused with garlic salt and broiled in the oven at 500 degrees until they’re browned.  Browned, not burnt to a crisp.  I almost always burn them to a crisp.)           

There was enough for four 2-cup servings from this batch.  The girls were off at the grandparent’s house and frankly, after cooking two whole chickens and making tons of soups from them, we are little tired of soup.  (*Gasp!*  I said WHAT?)  Freezing the rest of this soup was a better option!

Here is my favorite way to freeze soups:

Grab a freezer baggie.  I used a quart-sized one.  Write the contents and the date made on the baggie BEFORE filling it with soup.  (Learned that one the hard way, too)

Ladle soup into the baggie, seal it closed as close to the top of the soup as possible to eliminate as much air as you can.  Now for the clever part:  (I’m being a little ironic.  You probably already know this trick, but it took me about 6 years to figure this out.)  Clear a spot in your freezer so you can lay the soup flat.    

Once it is frozen, you can turn it upright and file it neatly under “soup”!  This is a definite space-saver!

I hope you all have a lovely Easter tomorrow!  Don’t fret over all those leftover hard-boiled eggs…  Hang on to them and stay tuned for an excellent way to turn a carton (or cartons!) of color-tinged eggs into finger-lickin’ treats!

I may have staged this shot, but he still loved the soup!

Categories: Freezing, Low-Acid, Poultry, Soup

Versatile Chicken Soup

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.

Directions:

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.                                     

Now it’s time to skim the stock.  Place a strainer over another large pot (or several medium pots, in my case) and ladle cups of stock through the strainer.

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. 

Add the rack and then your jars!  Getting excited yet?  I sure was!  Don’t forget to put the rack in there, though!  The jars are not supposed to sit directly on the bottom of the canner!                                                        

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!

  (You can see I didn’t put enough chicken in the jars.  I wish I would have doubled it.)

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)

Directions:

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

Directions:

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!

Categories: Canning, Low-Acid, Poultry, Soup

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