What is better than a hot bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup? Many of us have our favorite chicken soup recipe, but if you want excellent chicken broth while keeping the salt content at low or none, things can be more challenging. Here is my take on good very low or no-salt chicken broth. At the end of the soup recipe, I will include a great recipe for no-fail dumplings.
It’s important when making chicken soup to have enough chicken. That’s what gives the broth the best taste. So, to start, purchase one 3 or 4 pound stewing or roasting hen. That is the best choice, but a fryer or a rotisserie chicken works too. For the lowest sodium content, use a fresh or frozen chicken.
In a pot, place 3-4 quarts of water and cook on medium high while preparing the chicken. Clean the chicken well, removing any extra fat, cut into quarters, rinse again and rub it with some no-salt seasoning or poultry seasoning, mixed with granular or fresh garlic. If using a rotisserie chicken, this isn’t necessary. When the water is boiling slowly, place the chicken in the water, and turn to medium while preparing the vegetables. Keep your eye on the water, because to make clear chicken broth, it should not come to a hard boil, just a gentle bubble. When the water comes to a slow boil, start skimming. When the water is clear, add the vegetables.
I sometimes clean the vegetables the day before. Rinse 1 large or 2-3 medium yellow onions with the peeling on, as this adds yellow color to the broth. Cut the onions in halves or quarters. Add 2-3 stalks of celery including the leaves, cut in large pieces, then 2-3 carrots, peeled and cut in large pieces, and 4-6 cloves of fresh garlic, washed and trimmed–no need to peel. (The broth has no salt, so it needs lots of garlic to help the taste). Add 1-2 parsnips, peeled and cut into large pieces, and 1 large or 2 medium bay leaves. (fresh or dried-I keep them in the freezer ‘till used.) I add a slice or two or fresh or frozen ginger. This is optional to help the cause of low salt.
If you see any foam, skim again. Simmer on medium low uncovered (partial cover is okay) for 1-3 hours depending on what kind of chicken you use, and the size. Using the slow cooker or pressure cooker is fine. If the chicken is done but the broth doesn’t have enough taste, remove the chicken and simmer down some more. If you want to add a little salt, there is a great product called Better Than Bouillon that works well. Be sure to buy the one with 15 percent sodium, as they make some with a lot more sodium. Their telephone number is 800-334-4468 if you can’t find the one with lower sodium; they will tell you where to buy it. Add 1-2 tablespoonfuls to a large batch.
Let the broth cool for a while, then strain. I strain it twice, once in a large colander, then in a strainer. It freezes well. I use this broth in much of my cooking such as pasta sauce, gravies, chili, even chicken vegetable soup and much more. If cooled in the refrigerator, the fat comes to the top and can be removed the next day, as with freezing. Before serving, if you want even more taste, peel a carrot and clean a stalk of celery, cut into small pieces, boil for 3-5 minutes and add to the soup. The boiled chicken is perfect for chicken salad or chicken a la king. For more taste, you can add to the broth a beef bone, a few short ribs or boneless short ribs and/or a tomato (for more color.) Some people like to add a few chicken feet (!). You can buy them all cleaned, and they add a lot of flavor to the soup. Additionally, you can add to the soup just before serving, some thinly sliced lightly sautéed onions or some chopped green onions, and/or some fresh dill or fresh cilantro.
To make delicious dumplings, Pour ½ cup Egg Beaters (or use 2 whole eggs) in a bowl, add some flour, about 5 Tablespoonfuls (I use Wondra flour, which is a little finer than regular flour) and some seasoning powder or flakes, whisk together and drop in soft bubbling water. The batter should be similar to the consistency of pancake batter. If you like parsley, add 1 or 2 tablespoonfuls, chopped. Drop from a teaspoon to make small dumplings, which enlarge while cooking. I would advise you to make one the first time to see if the batter is the right consistency. Bubble slowly (medium to medium low) until they are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Covered, it takes less time, but I leave uncovered because I don’t like to watch it, as it may boil over if covered. If you like, you can make the batter a little thinner and drop it into the bubbling water in long thin ribbons. Add to the soup and keep warm on low until you’re ready to serve. The dumplings stay well in the broth overnight.