Thursday, August 2, 2012

Preserving Floyd: Chicken Corn Soup (Nostalgia in a Jar)

I'm not very nomadic.  I grew up and lived in the Buffalo Valley in central Pennsylvania until I was 37 years old.  It wasn't until I met and married Michael and moved below the Mason-Dixon that I discovered that there were foods, comfort foods, I took for granted that other people knew nothing about.  Like chicken corn soup.

Chicken corn soup could (and probably still can) be found at almost any outdoor public event and quite a few indoor ones as well.  Estate sales and auctions, high school football games, fire department carnivals and service organization fairs, church suppers, there was always a ladies auxiliary or volunteer group selling b-b-q sandwiches, a pot of chicken corn soup, and slices of homemade pies and cakes.  And those b-b-q sandwiches?  Don't go confusing them with your southern pulled pork.  These are more closely related to sloppyjoes but not quite that either.  I had to start calling it yankee b-b-q to alleviate some of the confusion.

With the sweet corn starting to come in in abundance and having a couple of chickens in the freezer needing to be used, it was time to put up some chicken corn soup for quick meals this winter.  This recipe freezes very well but the recent power outage has reminded me that shelf stable is a good thing so I decided to pressure can it.

Really good stock is the backbone of any soup and you can find directions for making and canning stock here.   There are also some good pre-made stocks on grocery store shelves.  I like both College Inn and Swanson's Natural Goodness broths when I'm out of my own.  Choose the low sodium versions.  If you'd like to keep this vegetarian, just choose a good vegetable stock and leave out the chicken.

I should probably confess that I've never had a recipe for this soup.  My mom made it, my aunts made it, all those auxiliary and volunteer ladies made it.  I think I learned it by osmosis or the regional version of the great collective unconscious.  Did I mention a friend who lived 70 miles away had the same surname as my mother's maiden name and turned out to be a distant relative?  We discovered this by comparing family chicken corn soups.

Chicken Corn Soup
To 2 quarts of simmering chicken stock add 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks and 1 onion, medium chop or dice, and a half cup of roughly chopped parsley.  Optionally add a little fresh or dried sage or thyme as well.  Simmer until the veg is just tender.  Add 6-8 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob or a roughly equivalent amount of frozen kernels.  Add 1-2 cans of creamed corn.  Allow to simmer for a half hour.  Add the diced boneless, skinless breast and thighs of one chicken (save the legs, wings and carcass in the freezer for future stock) or add leftover cooked chicken.  If raw, simmer until chicken is thoroughly cooked.  If using cooked chicken, simmer until chicken is heated through.  If you're planning on eating the soup right away or freezing it, add the optional rivels and simmer until the rivels are cooked through.  If you're planning on canning it, do not add the rivels Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Rivels are best described as a very small rough dumpling-like thickener and will make the soup even more hearty and PA Dutch-like.
To 1 cup of flour add a pinch of salt and pepper and, if you like, a pinch of dried thyme or sage crumbled fine.  Blend together well.  Make a well in the center of the seasoned flour and add 1 beaten egg.  Mix together until you have a rough dough that’s a little sticky but don’t knead.  You may have dry flour that didn’t get mixed in, discard that.  Or, depending on the egg and the humidity you may have to add a bit more flour.  But what you are after is a slightly sticky dough.  Tear off small grape sized bits of dough and toss into the simmering soup.  Don’t round them or make them pretty, just tear and toss.  Allow the rivels to simmer and until slightly puffed and cooked through.  They will thicken the soup considerably so you may have to thin it with stock or water.

To can the soup:  **DO NOT ADD THE RIVELS!!  Adding anything noodle-like or rice-like to soups before you can them is not recommended.  It won't stand up to the canning process and may make the soup too dense to can properly.**
Ladle hot soup into quart jars making sure to balance the solids and the liquids.  Leave a generous 1 inch of head space. Wipe the rim of the jar with a vinegar dampened towel to remove any grease or particles, adjust lids, and process in a pressure canner for 90 minutes at 12 lbs of pressure.  Add the optional rivels when reheating the soup to serve.

Alternatively, the soup freezes well with the rivels added.

This soup is a great way of using up the leftover leftovers from a holiday turkey dinner after everyone’s had their fill.  Use the carcass, gravy and any leftover veg (except for cabbage, broccoli or other brassicas) to make the stock and save the corn side (any corn side including baked) to stir into the soup.


  1. I knew there was something about you I liked! I am living in central PA (originally from an eastern suburb) and have been making chicken corn chowder since I discovered it (about the age of 25) at the buffet of Miller's Smorgasbord. I actually lost the recipe (I first bought at the restaurant) but recreated it as closely as possible- though I never follow any recipe exactly while cooking. Baking and canning are another story... Thanks for giving me a way to have it whenever I want as I'm now an "empty-nester"! I look forward to sharing this recipe with my daughter.