There’s not much about autumn that I don’t love. There’s the refreshing crispness in the air; the crunch of leaves underfoot, the scent of a burning fire in the night air, the stunning warm hues of the Northeast leaves, and the fact that I don’t have to wear a bathing suit for a very l-o-n-g time! I know, I know, it’s only day two of autumn, but I can’t help but swell in anticipation of all that the season has to offer. What a gift of beauty from the Lord!
In our home there is one tell-tale sign that autumn has arrived: the stockpot re-emerges! I love my stockpot (as much as one can love a piece of kitchen equipment). I miss it when it’s tucked away hibernating during the summer months. This pot has been around. It first belonged to my mother who received it for free during a promotion my father’s bank was running. That was over forty years ago. A few years ago she offered up some of her cookware, and I was not shy about snatching all I could. It shows the years through its bumps, little dents, and dull copper bottom, but this pot has history. Each ding and dent reminds me of it. I think that’s why I love it.
Today was the first day of what will be many days making homemade chicken stock. I only began making my own stock a few years ago. It’s one of the simplest things to do, but like many of life’s little treasures, it takes time to make it really special. But, I guarantee that if you can turn on the water, you can make stock. Not only does homemade stock have incredible flavor, but it also imparts some really “good-for-you” things that boxed broth will never do. Oh, and here’s a bonus, it’s way cheaper!
While I don’t have a recipe for homemade stock and certainly am not an expert, here’s what I do:
- Toss a few chicken bones (several necks, backbones, and ribs) into the pot. Some people recommend roasting the bones beforehand. I have made stock with both roasted and raw bones. Both methods will work.
- Add in some odds and ends like the bottoms of celery, some garlic, and an onion, quartered. I have a bag that I keep in my freezer full of odds and ends from my vegetables just for use in my stock. You may opt to toss in some herbs as well (I love to add in some fresh rosemary).
- Fill the pot with water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for hours. Typically, I allow the stock to simmer for six to eight hours, however, you can simmer longer.
- Strain the stock and voila! You have homemade, good for you, chicken stock.
Today’s batch of stock will be the base for this evening’s dinner: Italian Meatball and Vegetable Soup (kind of my version of Italian Wedding Soup). This soup is one of my family’s all time favorites. Put miniature meatballs in just about anything, and my kids swoon! What my kids may not realize is just how healthy it is for them. They simply think it’s delicious, and even though there is a ton of kale in it, they still eat it, love it, and ask me to make it again and again.
This is a down-home, rustic bowl of soup that is satisfying to the core. I hope you enjoy. And, oh, you can certainly choose to use store-bought broth (I won’t tell). My food photography skills are lacking, so I apologize for the not-so-glamorous photo!
Italian Meatball & Vegetable Soup
1 package ground turkey (about 1 and 1/3 pound)
2 slices bread
about 1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
3 T dried parsley flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 large carrots cut into 1/4″ rounds
4 celery ribs, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3/4 cup brown rice (uncooked)*
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups packed finely chopped kale (leaves, no stems)
12-16 cups chicken stock or broth
salt and pepper to taste (this will vary greatly depending if store-bought broth is used or not)
- Saute the onion and olive oil in large stock pot for 3 to 4 minutes (over medium heat).
- Add in all of the soup ingredients, except for the kale.
- Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour, being sure to stir occasionally.
- Make the meatballs by soaking the bread and milk in a bowl. Allow to sit for a few minutes. Mash up the bread with a fork.
- Lightly beat the egg. Stir the egg, salt, pepper, and parsley into the bread mixture (it will look like a paste).
- Mix the ground meat into the bread mixture.
- Make small miniature meatballs (1 teaspoon size) and drop them directly into the soup to cook.
- Cook for an additional 30 minutes.
- Stir in the chopped kale during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
*In lieu of rice, you may use barley or a small pasta variety.