Lynn Keiser knows chicken soup is good for what ails you, especially in the middle of cold and flu season.
Even if it is not her personal favorite, the caterer of some 28 years knows the warm broth's healing effects.
People love it, she said. It does make you feel better.
And Keiser doesn't just make any kind of chicken soup. When she makes the soup, based on her husband Larry's grandmother's recipe, it's a daylong process.
The biggest problem with making chicken soup or any soup is prepping all the vegetables, she said.
There are plenty of vegetables in her all-natural soup – celery, parsnips, turnips, leeks, parsley, dill, carrots, garlic, onion and parsley root.
I always use kosher chicken, because that's what I do, Keiser said. If I can get extra chicken backs and necks, I throw those in. Then I cook it forever.
Actually, the cooking time is about four hours.
She makes her chicken soup with egg noodles, sometimes homemade, or rice, matzoh balls or kreplach, which is a kind of Jewish wonton or pierogie filled with chicken, beef or veal.
My family loves matzoh balls, so I make it with matzoh balls, Keiser said.
She doesn't use a lot of salt and pepper because people have different tastes.
The process starts with cutting and cleaning the vegetables and cutting the soup chicken into eighths. She puts a handful each of parsley, garlic, dill, celery leaves and peppercorns in cheesecloth and ties it and puts it in the soup pot with the chicken and enough water to cover the meat. She adds onions, leeks, parsnips, turnips, parsley root, carrots and celery and simmers for four hours. About three hours into the simmering, she adds sliced carrots and celery. After the soup is cooked, she cools the soup pot in a water bath. Then she removes the cheesecloth content, takes the skin off the chicken and removes the bones and then skims the froth that has formed on top of the water. She cuts up the chicken and puts it along with vegetables in the pot to either refrigerate or freeze.
With chicken soup, it's very easy for bacteria to form, Keiser said. Once you take it off the stove, you should cool it as soon as possible.
Any extra chicken becomes another dish, such as chicken fricassee or chicken salad.
Although she usually makes other kinds of soups and prefers one that's heartier, Keiser makes chicken soup for her family. She also makes meals for the women's support group at Medical Oncology Associates in Kingston and plans to make some chicken soup for the group next week.
Several local events in coming weeks will offer chicken and other favorite soups.
Kenneth Herring of Nanticoke makes homemade chicken soup for the First English Baptist Church in Nanticoke.
Actually, I just put lots of chicken in, Herring said.
He uses 10 pounds of chicken to make the soup in a 5-gallon container, along with a quart of carrots, a quart of celery, a pint of onions, half of a container of chicken stock mixed with water, and then, of course, noodles, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
I generally use either fine or medium noodles, Herring said. It depends on what we're doing. I prefer the fine; some people like more bulk.
He makes his soup for home use and for church fundraisers. At home, he makes only two gallons at a time. For the last soup sale, he made 45 gallons.
We do it (at the church) because of the fact everybody likes the soup, Herring said.
The church just had a soup sale but will have another on March 6 for the Lenten service.
It's usually chicken and vegetable beef or vegetarian, he said During Lent, we have to make vegetarian.
GRANDMOM HELEN'S CHICKEN SOUP
Tweaked, courtesy of Lynn Keiser
2 whole soup chickens (7-9 lbs. total) rinsed and cut into l/8ths with extra necks and backs, if available
2 large onions
4 whole carrots; plus 4 more sliced and peeled – to add at step 6 below
4 stalks of celery with leaves –
2-4 parsnips peeled
2-4 turnips – peeled
4 garlic cloves (whole)
handful each of parsley, garlic, dill, celery leaves and peppercorns tied in cheesecloth
salt, pepper (leave some to add later)
6-8 quarts of water
1. Place chicken in large soup pot; add water to cover.
2. Slowly bring to simmer and skim off froth.
3. Add onions, leeks, parsnips, turnips, parsley root, carrots and celery.
4. Add contents of cheesecloth to soup tied up in the cheesecloth; and add salt.
5. Partially cover and then simmer about four hours.
6. About an hour before (three hours into the process) add sliced carrots and celery.
7. Cool soup mixture in a water bath.
8. Strain – remove cheesecloth contents, take skin off chicken and remove bones; put chicken and vegetables into pot with soup and refrigerate or freeze. Fat will rise to top and harden for easy removal prior to reheating and serving.
9. Serve broth in soup bowl with some carrots and celery from mixture and pieces of chicken.
10. Soup may be served with matzoh balls, kreplach, noodles or rice; add salt and pepper to taste.
OPTION: Add beef or marrow bones at Step 3 for enhanced flavor.
Soup Sale, 2-6 p.m. Jan. 26 and 10 a.m.-noon Jan. 27, St. Mary's Byzantine Church, Social Hall, 522 Madison St., Wilkes-Barre. Chicken noodle and piggie soup. $5 per quart.
Call Irene Sorber at 696-1398.
Vegetarian Soup and Mini-Homemade Bread Fundraiser, 4-6 p.m. Feb. 12 and 1-3 p.m. Feb. 13, The Abundant Life Ministry in conjunction with the Kingston Seventh-day Adventist Church, 17 Second Ave, Kingston. Fundraiser in support of WHMN-LP 107.3 FM. Mini loaves of whole wheat or raisin bread, $1 each; 32 oz. containers of soup for $7.50 each.
Vegetarian soup varieties are butternut squash, chili, corn chowder, cream of broccoli, lima bean, minestrone, split pea, tortilla-taco, vegetable and turkey noodle. Call 736-3014, 675-3849 or 379-1177 by Jan. 31.
Designate preferred pick-up day when placing order.
Soup, Bake and Book Sale, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 7, Exaltation of the Holy Cross Church, Buttonwood, Hanover Township. Takeouts only. $7 per quart.
Soup of the month is vegetable beef. Pre-orders, call Sylvia, 825-6370, or Barry, 831-5593.