Chicken Noodle Soup

How did Grandma make her chicken noodle soup? That was the header of an e-mail I sent my aunts recently.

 Last year I published a blog post in which I included some stories about my grandmother’s chicken noodle soup. I talked about Grandma bringing me a jar of her special soup when my son was born. I mentioned that my Dad had sometimes delivered jars of his mother’s soup to neighbors using a little sled pulled by his dog. I also described a story my younger son had written about his great grandmother’s chicken noodle soup. 

A Manitoba author writing a book about various cultural groups and their unique foods read my blog post about Grandma’s soup and wanted more details. After we chatted I agreed to contact my aunts. I thought they might have more information about my grandmother’s soup. Indeed they did! Spread out in three different cities my five aunts conferred by phone and then my Aunt Mary combined their findings in a lengthy e-mail

My aunts who provided the information about the soup are shown here wearing the kinds of aprons and kerchiefs Grandma would have worn while cooking

My aunts who provided the information about the soup are shown here having fun dressing up in the kinds of aprons and kerchiefs Grandma would have worn while cooking

Besides receiving a detailed recipe I learned other interesting things about Grandma’s chicken noodle soup. She only used hens well past the egg laying stage. Their heads were chopped off on a chopping block. Next the feathers were plucked after which the hairs on the chicken were singed in an alcohol flame. It was a matter of some skill to divest the chicken of its innards. Entrails were fed to the barn cats as a treat. The chicken was cooked in a large pot of boiling water along with peppercorns, star anise, a cinnamon stick, bay leaves and large bunches of parsley tied together with thread.

aunts in apronsGrandma made her own noodles drying them on a laundry rack and saving the water in which she boiled them to starch my Grandpa’s shirts. She got flour for her noodles by bringing wheat from their farm to the mill for grinding. The eggs for the noodles came from her chickens and the milk and butter from the family cows. Sometimes Grandma would devote an entire day to making noodles so she would have a ready supply for many months. A village tradition was to give gift packages of noodles at Christmas. Till she moved to a nursing home my grandmother continued to receive noodles as gifts from a niece she helped to raise after her mother died in childbirth, and from a cousin she and my grandfather sponsored to come to Canada after World War II.

   Grandma did not have a written recipe for her soup. She kept sampling it while it was cooking and adding things until it tasted right. The women of the village of Gnadenthal all made chicken noodle soup for new mothers. After a baby was born a family received many jars of soup. In this way the women of the village showed solidarity and support to the new mother so she didn’t have to cook too much while she was regaining her strength.

 One of my aunts remembers routinely having a bowl of chicken noodle soup as a ‘night cap’ with her father after evening church services. Another aunt recalls my grandmother telling her stories while she stirred her chicken noodle soup.

The author who contacted me was delighted with all the information my aunts provided about my grandmother’s chicken noodle soup. My aunts were delighted to have a chance to recall and share their fond memories of their mother’s soup. And I was delighted to learn more about my family from their stories.

An updated version of this post can be found here. 

Other posts………

Tütjes- An Important Christmas Tradition

I Married a Talented Spitter

Introducing Visitors From India to Mennonite Food


Filed under Food

2 responses to “Chicken Noodle Soup

  1. Ed Cornies

    Recipe please!


    • Here is the recipe my aunts put together for me.
      Recipe for Home-made Noodles
      3 cups flour
      1/2 tsp salt
      3 eggs
      Enough Milk (or water) to make firm dough
      Break the eggs and place them with the salt and flour into a mixing bowl
      Move the above mixture to one side of the bowl and add a small amount of milk. Mix in enough flour to begin a dough. Keep adding milk to the flour until all the egg/salt/flour mixture has formed into a FIRM (not sticky) dough. Work the dough with your hands until smooth.
      Divide the dough into balls about 4-5 inches in diameter.
      Spread flour on a countertop or table and roll out one ball of dough at a time into very thin circles (15-18 ” in diameter) so that you land up with as many flat pieces of thin dough. Keep sprinkling flour on the table and on top of the dough to make rolling it out easier. The circles should be slightly covered with flour all over. The circles of dough need to dry either on a floured table or hung over a laundry drying rack. After the dough is dry, place several of the dough circles on top of one another. With a sharp knife cut through all the layers of dough to make about two inch wide strips. Beginning at the end of a strip cut dough into very thin noodles. (If the noodles will not be used for soup the same day scatter the noodles on a floured table for further drying and store in airtight containers for future use.)

      On noodle soup day a hen (past the egg-laying stage) is caught and the head chopped off on a chopping block. A large pot of water has been brought to a boil in advance. The chicken is dipped into the scalding water to release the feathers. Grabbing the chicken by the legs all the feathers are immediately plucked. The hair on the hen is then removed by rotating the chicken over a small alcohol flame. The hen is then washed in cold water to get ready to be drawn. The chicken gizzard, & liver are saved as a delicacy. Drawing the innards of the chicken takes some skill. To maximize nutrition the chicken feet are cleaned and later boiled along with the rest of the chicken. There are usually barn cats waiting to enjoy the cast off entrail treats on butchering day. The hen is thoroughly rinsed and then placed into cold water to get chilled. After that the chicken is placed in a large pot and covered with water. As the water comes to a boil the foam that forms on top is removed with a skimmer. The chicken should be boiled at a low temperature until (2+ hours ?) well done. Salt is added to taste. While the hen is boiling the following items are added to give the broth a special flavor:
      1. a generous bunch of fresh parsley tied together with thread;
      2. a spice caddy holding about 1 Tbs peppercorns, 3-4 large bay leaves, and 4 star anise pieces.
      3. one cinnamon stick
      When fully cooked the chicken is taken out of the broth to be deboned and the meat cut into pieces to be served as a side. Grandma always maintained that putting the meat into the soup spoiled the soup taste.

      In a separate pot the finely cut home-made noodles are placed into boiling water and cooked for about 3-4 minutes until tender. The starchy water is drained from the noodles in a colander. A dab of home-made butter (1 Tbs) is stirred into the noodles. The hot noodles are placed in a large serving soup bowl and a preferred amount of broth ladled over the noodles according to preferences. With some freshly baked bread this was a hearty meal for our family of eight plus two hired hands!


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