One of the things I like to stock my freezer with is a chicken soup base. I make a big pot of chicken soup, but leave out anything that doesn’t freeze well or will get mushy upon reheating like noodles, beans, or rice. I cook it down so that the liquid is a little more concentrated, keep it extremely simple with only 5 ingredients (well, 6 if you count the water), and then freeze it in quart bags or jars.
The resulting soup is perfect exactly as it is if you want a simple, great tasting chicken soup. All you have to do is add a couple of cups of water and reheat it. But the best part about this soup base is it’s flexibility – you can make a variety of soups starting with this one base:
- Cook some noodles or rice to add in for chicken noodle or chicken with rice soup.
- Go even crazier and add wild rice and maybe some mushrooms to change it up.
- Throw in additional veggies to make it more stewlike (I like to add frozen corn, mushrooms, bell pepper, & some hearty greens like kale).
- Mix in a can of diced tomatoes (juice and all) to really bump up the nutrition value.
- Add in some diced green chili, cilantro, corn, and black beans to give it a Southwestern flair.
- Make dumplings, add a little cream to the soup base, and voila – chicken and dumplings.
- Spice any of the above combinations up with some chopped jalapeno.
- Garnish it with chopped parsely, chopped thyme, or any other fresh herb of your choice.
But soup isn’t all you can make from this .. um … soup! Go even crazier:
- Thicken it with some potato and some sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt) and add more veggies (corn & peas are my favorites) and you’ve got a chicken pot pie filling.
- Cook your noodles or rice in the soup w/out adding any additional water and you’ve got a casserole filling. Top it with some breadcrumbs and cheese and bake to finish it off.
- Strain off the liquid entirely and use it to cook a batch of rice or quinoa, and then spoon the meat and veggies over that.
I’m sure there are tons of other ways to use this base, but those are the ones I came up with off the top of my head, that I’ve done in the past.
I wait until bone-in chicken breasts go on sale to make this soup. Making a soup/stock with the skin and bone adds a ton of flavor. I got this 5# “family pack” of chicken for about $12 on sale. There were actually 6 huge chicken breasts in the pack.
All of the breasts go into my big stock pot filled with water:
Take the bunch of celery that you’re going to use for the soup and cut out the hearts and leaves:
Put the celery hearts along with a whole onion (skin and all), a handful of peppercorns, and any other herbs you want into the pot:
Bring this to a boil and then lower it to a simmer for at least a couple of hours. I cooked this for about 3 hours until the level of the liquid was reduced by about 2 inches.
Once the liquid is a rich golden color and you can see that the chicken is falling off the bone, turn off the heat and use a measuring cup with a handle to scoop out the chicken and veggies:
I use a big strainer over my biggest mixing bowl to strain out the cooked veggies, bones and skin, and save the broth:
After you’ve scooped out as much of the liquid as you can, removed the cooked chicken and strip all the meat from the bones. Be sure you get all the little bones out. They tend to get soft during the cooking period, and the very small ones are easy to miss!
This is what the broth looks like after you’ve strained out everything: It should be a rich golden yellow color:
Return the chicken and the broth to the pot:
Add the chopped celery (including the leafy green parts):
And about 6 large carrots, chopped into rounds:
Simmer that for about an hour – just enough to soften up the veggies and reduce the liquid by another inch. What you’ll be left with is a slightly condensed, rich, meaty soup base that you can eat as it is by just adding some water, or you can, as I described above, make into all kinds of delicious stuff!
I measure out 4 cup quantities of the soup (4 cups = 1 quart):
The quantity of soup I made filled 6 1-quart freezer bags. These will go into the freezer laid flat, until they’re frozen, and then I’ll store them standing on end. These will keep in the freezer for 4-6 months (but they won’t last that long around here).
As I mentioned at the top of the post, this soup base can be eaten much like a can of condensed soup – add 2 cups of water per quart and heat and serve. But really this is my lifesaver for days that I need something healthy and fast and don’t want to take a lot of time cooking.
Although this is more a technique than a recipe, I’ll post the quantities I used above:
Freezer Chicken Soup Base
- 5# bone in, skin on chicken breast
- 1 yellow onion (quartered w/skin)
- 1 tbsp whole pepper corns
- 1 large bunch of celery (hearts separated from stalks)
- 6-7 large carrots (washed but not peeled & chopped into rounds)’
- 8-9 quarts cold water
Put the chicken breast, the onion, the peppercorns, and the celery hearts into a large stock pot and cover with the cold water.
Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for anywhere from 2-4 hours until you can see the chicken falling off the bone and the level of liquid is reduced by about 2 inches.
Strain out the meat and veggies. Return the stock and the cooked, shredded chicken meat to the pot, and discard the skin, bones, and cooked veggies.
Add in the remaining celery, chopped, and the carrots. Cook over a low simmer until the level of liquid is reduced by another inch.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can transfer it to freezer bags or containers.
Makes roughly 6 quarts of soup base. To eat as plain soup, add 2 cups of water per quart of base, a little more if adding noodles or rice.