Chicken Soup 101: No Jewish Bubbie? No problem! My bubbie’s 19th century recipe [classic article]

“They” always call chicken soup the “Jewish Penicillin”. Somebody made a mint off the comforting nature of chicken soup, selling books for the soul. You’d like some comfort thrown your way, but there are obstacles – real or imagined.

You didn’t have a Jewish Bubbie (grandma) to show you the ropes? Not a problem. Mine was straight from the Ukraine and a terrific soup cook. I understand from one of my cousins that my bubbie’s mother — my great-grandma — was also a good cook, making dinners out of mushrooms she forged in the forest. My Bubbie Sonia’s soup was renowned in major cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Gary.  She was hostess to her buddy from the Ukraine, Golde Meir — first female Prime Minister of Israel.

You’re thinking you need fancy equipment to make chicken soup? No! You’ll need a big pot, try for 6 quarts and up. It can be from the Goodwill. Also, you’ll need a big spoon, a strainer if you’re being fancy, a knife, and a chopping board.

You don’t need lots of money: this is peasant food. I like making soup with a big Kosher chicken, because it’s juicy. When I had less cash and when wings were cheap, I used a pack of wings. You can use just bones that you roast. Some people swear by parsnips, bay leaves, celery root, bouillion. I don’t. Bubbie Sonia didn’t, either. Use whatever plastic food containers you have (save quart yogurt containers!) to freeze the leftovers. They can be defrosted in a pot or in the microwave when you are feeling down.

The one thing about this recipe is that it will bring back single-handedly the slow food movement.


1 chicken or package of chicken parts or bones

Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

1 carrot, chopped (One time, Bubbie Sonia used more and then said the soup was “too sweet”. I liked it that way.)

2 cloves garlic

1 onion chopped (Don’t bother with the fancy sweet varieties. Just get a cheap white or yellow onion)

1 celery stalk, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Fill your pot about 2/3 the way with water, boil. While water is cooking, rinse your chicken clean. When water is boiling, add chicken. Let cook for an hour. Add other ingredients. Cook on simmer for as many hours as you can – the more time, the more flavor. Try for at least 3.

With your big spoon, fish out the garlic, onion, and parsley.  Toss. Take out chicken and sift out bones. You can add the chicken back in if you choose or save for recipes.

Chill in refrigerator for a few hours. Take your big spoon and skim off the fat. My dad told me that was a very necessary step, because otherwise, the soup will be too greasy and indigestible.

If you’re feeling fancy, you can add rice, noodles, kreplach, matzo balls, diced potatoes. Heat up and enjoy!

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