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Bring on the Jewish Penicillin: A Chicken Broth Tutorial

Over the years, different cultures have adopted different methods of helping to support immune health and stave off the pesky colds and flus that become all the more common as the temperatures dip--as they have already started to do. A popular one amongst Jewish households is "Jewish Penicillin," more commonly known as chicken broth. While I am not Jewish myself, this is one of my favourite food-based immune system supports. One reason for this is that properly-prepared chicken broth doesn't require "a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down." It is so tasty and flavourful that I would happily consume it for gastronomique pleasure alone.

The health-promoting benefits of chicken broth are more than an old wives' tale. According to a 2000 study published in the Journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, researchers found that chicken soup could help reduce upper-respiratory inflammation, which commonly manifests in hateful symptoms, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, and more. What's more, broth is a great source of fluids, which help to loosen congestion and support hydration. That makes it a fantastic way to follow the doctor's advice and, "Push fluids" (i.e. increase fluid intake).

There are a great many ways to make a good-quality, mouth-watering chicken broth. While there are some integral components, there are lots of special variations that can be employed to suit unique flavour preferences and requirements. Here is a foundational recipe that you can use as a jumping off point into your foray into broth making. It has been prepared with both taste and nutrition in mind.


2-3 lbs organic chicken bones (I usually save the bones from a roasted chicken, but you can also buy "soup bones" from a butcher)

3-4 medium to large carrots, washed, coarsely chopped

3-4 stalks of celery, washed, coarsely chopped

2 medium onions, peeled, coarsely chopped (I prefer yellow or red)

1-2 Tbsp rice vinegar (apple cider vinegar can also be used, but I dislike the way it impacts the flavour)

1 tsp peppercorns, whole

1-2 bay leaves

2-3 cloves garlic, fresh, peeled

1 medium apple, chopped (optional -- I like the way that it imparts a subtle sweetness to the broth)

1 small bunch parsley, fresh (optional)

2-4 organic chicken feet (optional)


1) Place chicken bones, chicken feet (optional), chopped up veggies, apple (optional), garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaf into a large pot.

2) Cover with water--filtered, if available.

3) Add rice vinegar. You can use apple cider vinegar if you would rather. I simply prefer the flavour of my broth when I use rice vinegar. From a health standpoint, either works since the purpose of adding vinegar is to help lower the pH of the broth in order to pull alkalizing minerals, such as calcium and magnensium, out of the bones.

4) Bring broth to a boil.

5) Reduce heat so that the broth is just simmering. Spoon off the scum that rises to the top. My Polish grandmother always used to do this. I never realized what a big difference it made to the flavour of the finished product until I skipped the step a few times.

6) Option #1: Reduce to lowest heat and cover. Simmer for 12-24 hours, making sure to check your broth often to ensure that it is safely cooking away and that it hasn't reduced too much. If your water has dropped below "The Veggie Line," you can just top up with more water.

Option #2: Allow to cool and transfer to slow cooker. Cook on high for 12 to 24 hours. My slow cooker has a timer. That makes this process feel so much less laborious. If you opt for this method, I would still check your water line every now and again. It would be most unfortunate if too much water evaporated and spoiled (i.e. burned) your broth. (This happened to me once and was very disappointing.)

7) If you feel fancy, you can add parsley to your slow cooker about an hour or so before finish time. This adds a lot of extra minerals to your broth.

8 ) Once cooked, allow broth to cool. Strain your broth. You could do this with a colander placed over another big pot or you could use a slotted spoon to scoop out the vegetables and bones. Salt and pepper to taste.

I usually pour my broth onto mason jars and store them in the refrigerator. Broth should be consumed within five days of completion. I freeze what I don't think I will consume within that time. This is no hardship since it's always nice to have a few pre-made jars available when an unexpected cold hits. (TIP: If freezing your broth, make sure to leave a little bit of room in the jar, as the broth will expand and could shatter the jar in so doing.)

Health Benefits

Organic Chicken Bones--Organic bones are a rich source of health-promoting nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur, and trace minerals, as well as joint-supportive constituents, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate.

Carrots—Not only do carrots add a subtle sweetness to the recipe, their beta-carotene benefits the immune system by helping to defend the body from free radical damage, harmful bacteria, viruses, and inflammation.

Celery—Celery has a long history of use in folk medicine as a nerve tonic. Among its purported benefits are restoring strength, renewing vitality, purifying blood, regulating the kidneys/liver/blood, and addressing catarrh (i.e. phlegm).

Onions—Onions have been used for centuries to fight infections and enhance the immune system. They contain quercetin, a nutrient that helps break up mucus in the head and chest.

Garlic—Garlic is potent source of allicin, which slows down and kills a variety of viruses and bacteria. Stabilized allicin is actually sold as an immune support supplement. One popular brand is called Allimax.

Rice Vinegar—Adding rice vinegar to this recipe helps to lower the pH of the broth in order to pull alkalizing minerals, such as calcium and magnensium, out of the bones.

Parsley—Arguably the world’s most popular herb, parsley is an excellent source of Vitamin C and a good source of Provitamin A, two nutrients known to promote optimal immune health.

Bon appetit!

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