Well, that’s how Chicken Noodle Soup is often referred to, anyway — as Jewish penicillin. And according to researchers, Chicken Noodle Soup really does make you feel better, ‘though they aren’t sure why:
The idea that chicken soup, often dubbed the “Jewish penicillin,” has medicinal effects dates back to ancient times, but modern scientists have never fully deciphered the reasons.
Dr. Stephen Rennard, a pulmonary expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, found evidence the soup contains anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent a cold’s miserable side effects.
Some doctors believe that the soup’s benefits are mainly psychosomatic, that it’s the ultimate comfort food. Others say the steaming hot soup clears congestion and provides the body with necessary hydration to flush out viral bugs.
Researchers believe colds are caused by viral infections in the upper respiratory tract. The body responds with inflammation, which triggers white blood cells to migrate to the area.
These bacteria-devouring cells, however, have little ability to kill off a virus, and as a side effect, stimulate the production of mucous, which may cause the traditional cold season symptoms of stuffy heads, coughs and sneezing.
In the lab, Rennard tested the ability of those white blood cells to migrate from one side of a chamber across a filter to the other side, as they normally do. In the presence of the chicken soup, however, he noted that fewer cells migrated to the other side of the chamber.
His theory is that some ingredient in the soup blocks or slows the amount of cells congregating in the lung area, possibly relieving the development of these cold symptoms.
A few weeks ago, my beloved just wasn’t feeling well. He didn’t have a cold or any respiratory illness, but he just wasn’t feeling well overall and his appetite was adversely impacted. In casting about for something that sounded yummy to him, when I suggested homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, he perked up, as that sounded so good to him.
While tinned varieties of Chicken Noodle Soup are convenient and abound, when you make it yourself, you can make it as hearty — almost like a stew — or as light (soupy) as you want. And, of course, you control the quality of all the ingredients and the cooking methods, so you’re the one in charge of the amount of sodium and fat, as well as how meaty (or not!) the soup is. Some estimate that Campbell’s makes up to 20 cans of soup from a single chicken — that’s really stretching the chicken!!
Most of the chicken-y flavor in Campbell’s soup is from the heavily salted chicken broth, so there’s no need for the company to include much meat in there, which you’ve already noticed as you quested about your soup bowl in search of microscopic chicken bits. It’s a pretty safe estimate to say there’s about one ounce of actual chicken in a ten-ounce can of soup.
I used some boneless, skinless chicken breast and chicken thighs I had in the freezer, but one can use bone-in chicken (myself, I’d remove the skin first, although one can skim the fat from the soup if you prefer) or leftover chicken from a rotisserie or baked chicken. In a pinch, you could even use tinned chicken meat.
I kept the vegetables very basic — onion, carrot, and celery — but you can certainly add in additional vegetables if you like, or even potatoes — ‘though if I used potatoes, I think I’d leave the noodles out. I also kept the seasonings very simple and basic, but you could add in a bay leaf or two, some poultry seasoning, some sage, or other like seasonings, too, if you like — that’s part of the joy of making it yourself!
MY BIG TIP: To keep the noodles (or rice, if you prefer rice) from getting bloated and soggy in the soup, cook them separately and ahead of time, then let them chill out in the ‘fridge. Chilling the noodles first will allow them to retain their texture in the soup.
So the next time you’re in need of some comfort — or some over-the-counter penicillin 😉 — make yourself a pot of Chicken Noodle Soup. It smells — and tastes! — so yummy, you may well find yourself doing the Chicken Noodle Dance! (Go on, take less than a minute to watch — it’s little kids, and they’re cute!)
(Apparently, the “Chicken Noodle Dance” and/or song is a “thing”…and has been a “thing” for some years now. Who knew? But then again, it’s already been established that I live under a rock. 😉 LOL!)
Chicken Noodle Soup (Serves 6 to 8; easy to adjust up or down and to make as hearty/stew-like or light/soupy as you want)
- 1/2 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken (I used 1 1/2 pounds of a combination of boneless, skinless chicken breast AND thighs, which gave it a richer flavor)
- 64 ounces/4 pints/8 cups chicken stock (I used one 64 ounce container of stock, which is lower sodium than even reduced-sodium broth, and one 64 ounce container of no-salt-added broth) OR water with chicken bouillon
- 1/2 to 1 onion, diced
- 2 – 4 carrots, scraped and sliced
- 2 – 4 stalks celery, sliced
- 2 to 6 ounces of egg noodles, cooked and chilled (2 ounces for soupier soup; 6 ounces for a heartier stew-like soup)
- Parsley to taste
- In a large Dutch oven or soup/stock pot, pour in broth and chicken meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender (anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours).
- NOTE: If you want to reduce the broth at any point for a richer taste, leave the lid off or cock the lid for part of the cooking time.
- Remove chicken from broth, shred meat, and return to pot.
- Add vegetables to pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 45 minutes to an hour.
- Stir in cooked and chilled egg noodles. Simmer until noodles are heated through, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in parsley to taste and serve! Season individual servings with coarse ground black pepper and/or additional salt, if desired. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.