Well, folks, I had different intentions in mind for this week's post, but those intentions were waylaid by an unwelcome visitor that caught up with me at the beginning of the week. Though the flu season is reportedly waning, the wicked virus flicked its forked tail on its way out and pulled me along with it. Not wanting to be the bearer of bad germs, I spent most of the week hunkered down inside our house, exiting only once to buy groceries. The good news is that I had a secret weapon stored that served me well, and you can make and store this little powerhouse too.
The secret weapon is this; homemade bouillon cubes, super sources of healing gelatin, and ready to use at a moment' s notice. This genius idea comes from Nourished Kitchen's Jenny McGruther, and though I posted a link on my Facebook page several months ago, it's worth sharing again. I've slightly adapted Jenny's recipe for the homemade bouillon cubes, using this recipe for classic chicken stock from Food&Wine magazine, and freezing the cubes instead of letting them dry out. When you need to make a quick, nourishing soup, these deep amber-colored cubes will bring sweet comfort to your beleaguered flu-laden soul.
Chicken Bouillon Cubes
(adapted from the "Homemade Bouillon" recipe from Nourished Kitchen and the "Classic Chicken Stock" recipe from Food&Wine magazine)
Leftover bones, cartilage, and skin from four roasted chickens
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into quarters
4 stalks of celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 leeks, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
4 cloves of garlic
8 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
Two teaspoons of dried thyme
one 1/4 ounce packet of unflavored gelatin
Two large stockpots, at least 4 quarts in size each
Divide the chicken leftovers equally between the two stockpots. Add four quarts of cold water to each. Divide the vegetables, bay leaves and herbs between the two stockpots. Partially cover each pot and bring to a boil, then decrease to a low simmer, and cook for 2 hours. After two hours, remove from the heat. Let cool for several minutes.
Using a soup ladle, scoop as much of the chicken leftovers and vegetables from the stock as you can into a large heat-proof bowl. Dispose of the leftovers and vegetables. Rinse the bowl, and place a large strainer lined with unbleached muslin over it. Strain the stock from one of the stockpots through the muslin and strainer into the bowl. Rinse the empty stockpot, and return the strained stock to the stockpot. Repeat the same process for the rest of the stock in the second stockpot. You should have about 3-1/2 quarts of stock left in each stockpot, for a total of 1-3/4 gallons of stock.
Return both stockpots with their stock to the stove, and over medium high heat, reduce the stock in each pot until it is reduced by half, to about 1-3/4 quarts of stock. Then transfer the stock from one of the stockpots to the other, combining the two stocks into one pot. Continue reducing the remaining stock over medium-high heat to about 1-3/4 cups, depending on the amount of stock you started with. Adjust the heat as the stock reduces to avoid burning it.
Let the stock cool slightly, then stir in one 1/4 ounce packet of gelatin. Pour into an 8-inch X 8-inch glass or ceramic container, cover, and let firm up for several hours. Loosen and flip the solid stock, which should have the consistency of jello, onto a cutting board. Cut into 24 equal cubes. Separate the cubes and transfer to a large wax-paper-lined container. Cover and freeze for a few hours. Remove when frozen solid, and scoop into a small container. Store in the freezer and use when needed. Reconstitute one cube per one cup of water to make stock.
Makes 24 bouillon cubes
Simple (Sick Day) Soup
2 cups of water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup of vegetables of your choice, diced
2 ounces of cooked chicken, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup of cooked brown rice, or 2 ounces of cooked whole grain noodles
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
(Optional: Add some healing aromatics such as a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger or roasted or chopped garlic, and a teaspoon of lemon juice)
Put two cups of water and the two cubes of bouillon in a 4-quart saucepan. Heat over medium heat until cubes dissolve, and stir to blend. Add vegetables, bring to a gentle simmer, cover and cook until vegetables give easily when pierced with a fork, at least 10 minutes. Add the chicken and rice or noodles and let warm up for a couple of minutes. Serve immediately, and recover soon.
Makes about 2-1/2 to 3 cups of soup