The Secret to the Perfect Soup

Nearly everyone has something that comes from their kitchen that they are known for.  Maybe you create cupcake masterpieces.  Or make a chili like no one else.  Soup is my thing.

I’ve always loved soup.  I grew up on soup.  I remember my mom making soup during the cold winter months.  We didn’t have much, but my mom had a knack for taking little bits and pieces of this and that, tossing them into a stock pot, and making a hearty bowl of deliciousness.

The secret to the perfect bowl of soup has everything to do with the broth (stock) you use.   There is no doubt that you can taste the difference between water based soup, one made with store bought stock, and one simmered in homemade stock.  Making homemade stock is very easy, but it does take time.  It’s the perfect Saturday project while your are home doing other things around the house.  There’s no need to babysit the stock pot once you have it up and running, so you are clear to go about your day.  I promise you that the end result will be nothing less than liquid gold!

Now brace yourself!  The instructions for this broth include words like “carcass”, “organ meat”, and “gelatinous”.  So, if you are already queasy, you may want to check out right here!

Okay.  Still with me?  Here we go.

Some of the best ingredients used in making stock are items that you may very well toss into the trash.  Bones, the base of a head of celery, tops of onions, and the contents of that “mystery bag” found inside a whole chicken or turkey all are the base for this stock.  Turn your trash into treasure by keeping a large resealable plastic bag in the freezer.  When you have scraps of celery, onion, or even carrot, toss them in there.  And never, ever, ever throw away bones!  It’s a big no no in our home because packed inside of those bones are some really good for you things.

Here is my ingredient list, followed by a few notes:

My Basic Stock

3 chicken carcasses, including necks
2 small smoked pork bones
chicken organ meat (found in that little bag inside of a chicken or turkey)
base of a head of celery
2 large carrots, cut in thirds
1 large onion (with skin), halved
1 head garlic (with skin), halved
6 bay leaves
3 Kombu sheets (4″ each)1 tablespoon dried rosemary
32 cups water

  • If you roast a chicken or a turkey, keep the carcass.  I toss the skin because it leaves behind a bit too much fat for my liking.  Chicken bones are available at most stores.  You may even want to ask the butcher at your store if they specifically have chicken carcasses (this generally includes the rib cage and backbone).
  • The use of smoked pork bones lends a very subtle smokey flavor to the broth.  It’s not pronounced at all, but it imparts something a little different to the stock and sets it apart.  Again, pork bones are typically available right in the meat department.  If not, ask the butcher.  You don’t need a lot.  Enough bones to fit in the palm of your hands is sufficient.  Note – I am not talking about using large pork bones from a ham for this stock, but again, don’t throw those big bones out.
  • Organ meat such as heart, kidney, and liver are typically packed into a tiny bag and stuffed into the bird before packaging.  The bag typically contains the neck as well.  Dump the contents of the entire bag into the stock pot.
  • Herbs, fresh or dried, are a great addition to any stock.  Feel free to add any herbs you like.  I am simply fond of rosemary and think that it is a perfect compliment to most soups.
  • You may be asking what in the world Kombu is.  Well, it’s a sea vegetable.  Basically, it’s sea weed!  It comes in dry sheets, typically about 4″ long.  It is an all natural, completely edible sea plant that is a superb flavor enhancer.  This is the brand that I use.  It’s available at most grocery stores and Whole Foods.6188551329417832

Place all of those ingredients into a very large stock pot.  I use a 12 quart stock pot, but if you only have a smaller pot, you can opt to halve the above recipe.


Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil.  Remove the lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for six hours.  During the cooking process the water should maintain a very low bubble – greater than a simmer, but less than a boil.  Somewhere in the middle is just perfect.

Every now and then stir the pot.  It is completely normal (and somewhat gross) for “foam” to develop on top of the liquid.  This will be skimmed off.  I do warn you that the odor that comes forth from the pot of stock for the first hour or so is not terribly inviting.  However, rest assured, as those ingredients do their thing, your kitchen will be filled with a wonderful aroma.

You will know that your stock is done when the liquid has cooked down by about half.  You will be left with about 15 cups of homemade broth in the end.

Once your broth is done, you will need to thoroughly strain the liquid.  I like to remove as many solids from the pot as possible using a large slotted spoon first.  For whatever remains, I pour it through a colander that is lined in cheesecloth.  Whenever you are cooking with bones there is the potential for small bone fragments.  You want to remove all of those potentially dangerous pieces.   Placing several layers of cheesecloth over a colander does the trick perfectly.

The liquid that is left behind should be a rich golden color.


Do not throw anything away yet!  Once the bones and solids have cooled a bit to the point where you can handle them, be sure to pick through them and set aside any meat from the bones.  Also, remove the organ meat (heart, kidney, liver) and set them aside.  We’ll use them later.  The remaining bones, vegetables, and kombu can be discarded.

Now, you are ready to make soup.

If you will not be using the stock right away, you will want to cool it, then store it in the fridge.  You may also portion out the stock and freeze.

Be sure to check back in with the blog over the next few days as I share some of my favorite soup recipes with you.  They will all use this homemade broth as the base. Up first will be a simple chicken soup.

6 thoughts on “The Secret to the Perfect Soup

  1. Just curious… how long does Kombu keep? Also, how long do you freeze your finished stock? I’ve read a few articles that say it shouldn’t be kept frozen for very long (weeks, as opposed to months).


    • I have to admit that I usually make broth and use it up within a day or two. I wouldn’t freeze it for longer than a few weeks. I’m not a fan of freezing anything for months at a time.

      The kombu comes dried in a resealable bag. It will last for a good long time. A bag typically comes with 12 pieces.

      Hope that helps!


  2. Pingback: Classic Chicken, Vegetable, and Rice Soup | Life in the Van

  3. Pingback: Sausage, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Soup | Life in the Van

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s