Grandma Mala’s Chicken Soup

Grandma Mala’s chicken soup is a delightfully savory, pristinely clear soup broth that is as delicious as it is nutritious (with legendary healing properties to boot). The recipe is an intriguing one because although we all refer to it as “chicken soup,” it actually uses chicken, turkey, and beef. The meats and bones provide nourishing minerals (although they don’t cook for long enough to classify this soup as a bone broth), and the plethora of vegetables provide vitamins to create the perfect soup to make if you or someone you love is under the weather. I cook up a batch every month or so and keep it in air-tight containers in my freezer, ready to give away to friends and family who are sick, to serve on Shabbat every Friday night, and to serve during one of the many Jewish holidays throughout the year- in fact, a portion of my most recent batch will be consumed with matzo balls during our Passover Seder coming up in a little over 2 weeks!

This recipe is probably my #1 most prized possession, because it is something that I can never lose, as it lives inside of me, and also because it connects me to my Grandma Mala and to her mom, my Grandma Esther, who was tragically murdered at 41 years old in August, 1944 at Auschwitz. I have been eating this soup since I was a baby, and the taste of it instantly transports me back to the comforts of my childhood. Even Paul (my husband), who has never been a big fan of soups, is obsessed with Grandma Mala’s chicken soup; he can’t get enough of it, especially when he’s not feeling well.

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To begin, wash the meat with cold water, then pat dry. Organize the meat and cauliflower by type and wrap in cheesecloth or place in a heat-tolerant straining bag (so you end up with 4 bundles total: one for chicken, beef, turkey, and cauliflower). Fasten with baking twine (disregard this step if using a straining bag). Fastening the meat and cauliflower makes it SO much easier to serve the meat later and, more importantly, to strain the soup once it’s finished cooking.

Place the turkey and beef bundles at the bottom of a medium/large pot (NOT the extra large soup pot that you’ll be cooking the soup in) and fill with water until the meat is covered. If you plan on serving or cooking with the meat, add 2 handfuls of kosher salt to the water to season the meat as it cooks off.

Bring to a boil and cook for an hour. Remove from the stove, pour out all of what Grandma Mala calls the “dirty water,” and wash all of the scum off the cheesecloth-wrapped turkey and beef bundles.

Fill the pot with the rest of the vegetables, 2 handfuls of kosher salt, and ¼ cup Vegeta seasoning. Put all 3 meat bundles (including the uncooked chicken one) into the largest soup pot you have. Add one bunch of dill and if you’re using parsley roots, add both parsley roots, but reserve the leaves off one of them for the end. If you’re using parsley leaves, add one bunch to the pot and save the second bunch for later.

Fill with enough water to just about cover everything. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil, then turn the stove down to a simmer. This may take some adjusting, so it is recommended to check the soup every 30 minutes to make sure it isn’t boiling or placid.

Simmer for 3-5 hours, then turn off the het and add the remaining parsley and dill (reserving a small amount to chop for garnish). Taste to see if it needs more salt or Vegeta. If so, add it now. Let the soup sit with the lid on for 30 more minutes, then mix up and taste one last time to make sure it’s seasoned properly, and if not, adjust it.

Using a soup strainer, strain the soup (you can reserve the vegetables to blend into a pureed vegetable soup).

Store in air-tight containers in the refrigerator for 5-7 days or in the freezer for 6 months for maximum freshness, but it will stay safe in the freezer well beyond 6 months. Serve hot with finely chopped dill (optional).

Grandma Mala’s Chicken Soup

Becca Gallick-Mitchell
This clear broth is packed full of flavor and nutrients to make the absolute perfect Jewish Penicillin. Passed down l'dor vador (from generation to generation in Hebrew), this is my most cherished recipe.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 50 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine Ashkenazi, Ashkenazi Jewish, Jewish, Polish

Equipment

  • extra large soup pot
  • cheesecloth (or cloth straining bags made out of cheesecloth or muslin)
  • cooking twine (disregard if using straining bags)

Ingredients
  

  • 4 chicken breasts (the original recipe calls for a whole Pullet chicken, or a young hen under 1 year in age, but these are not always readily available nowadays)
  • 4 turkey wings (I substitute with 2 turkey thighs because I like to serve or cook with the meat)
  • 2 lbs beef flanken (can substitute with short ribs)
  • ½-1 lb carrots (about 5-10 carrots), clened and tops removed
  • 2 leeks (green and white parts) sliced in half, cleaned, and roots removed
  • 2 parsley roots (can substitute with 2 bunches of parsley), cleaned
  • 2 bunches dill, cleaned
  • 1 whole savoy cabbage, cleaned and stem cut down
  • 1 bunch celery, cleaned and bottom removed
  • 1 whole cauliflower, cleaned and green parts removed
  • 5 onions, roots and skins removed
  • kosher salt
  • ¼ cup Vegeta seasoning, plus more to taste

Instructions
 

  • Wash the meat with cold water, then pat dry. Organize the meat and cauliflower by type and wrap in cheesecloth (so you end up with 4 bundles total: one for chicken, beef, turkey, and cauliflower). Fasten with baking twine. This makes it SO much easier to serve the meat later AND, more importantly, to strain the soup once it’s finished cooking.
  • Place the turkey and beef bundles at the bottom of a medium/large pot (NOT the extra large soup pot that you'll be cooking the soup in) and fill with water until the meat is covered. If you plan on serving or cooking with the meat, add 2 handfuls of kosher salt to the water to season the meat as it cooks off. Bring to a boil and cook for an hour. Remove from the stove, pour out all of what Grandma Mala calls the “dirty water,” and wash all of the scum off the cheesecloth-wrapped turkey and beef bundles.
  • Fill the pot with the rest of the vegetables, 2 handfuls of kosher salt, and ¼ cup Vegeta seasoning. Put all 3 meat bundles (including the uncooked chicken one) into the largest soup pot you have. Add one bunch of dill and if you're using parsley roots, add both parsley roots, but reserve the leaves off one of them for the end. If you're using parsley leaves, add one bunch to the pot and save the second bunch for later.
  • Fill with enough water to cover everything. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil, then turn the stove down to a simmer. This may take some adjusting, so it is recommended to check the soup every 30 minutes to make sure it isn't boiling or placid.
  • Simmer for 3-5 hours, then turn off the het and add the remaining parsley and dill (reserving a small amount to chop for garnish). Taste to see if it needs more salt or Vegeta. If so, add it now. Let the soup sit with the lid on for 30 more minutes, then mix up and taste one last time to make sure it's seasoned properly, and if not, adjust it.
  • Using a soup strainer, strain the soup (you can reserve the vegetables to blend into a pureed vegetable soup). Store in air-tight containers in the refrigerator for 5-7 days or in the freezer for 6 months for maximum freshness, but it will stay safe in the freezer well beyond 6 months. Serve hot with finely chopped dill (optional).
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2 thoughts on “Grandma Mala’s Chicken Soup”

  1. Vegeta is an Eastern European brand that makes their own all-purpose seasoning blend. If you can’t find it, use chicken bouillon instead, or just omit entirely and compensate with a little extra kosher salt.

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