It has taken me about 18 hours to make barley hen soup, but this is definitely one of the most interesting soup experiences I have had in a while. I decided to make the stock from a stewing hen I bought for crazy cheap. Just one thing – I had no idea how to make stock from a stewing hen. So – google to the rescue.

It’s like making any stock, except that in this case, the hen is a tough old laying hen who, after a joyful life of eating bugs, hanging out with other hens, and laying eggs (don’t ruin it for me), is now only fit to be simmered all day. So I wedged her into my largest cooking pot with some water and spent the day occasionally throwing carrot peelings into the bath. After many, many hours, and many, many seasonings later, I had a pot of seriously delicious stock and some bird meat that was stringy but tasty. I stuck the entire thing into my fridge and made it a plan for day 2.

Today was day 2. I strained the stock, removed all the edible meat, sharing some with Max, and added cooked barley, veggies, and the hen meat back into the pot.

A very vegetable rich soup with hen meat and barley

The end result is absolutely delicious. Best of all, there isn’t a single added ingredient that I didn’t simmer, sauté, or chop myself. I can name everything in the pot. Except the hen. I don’t know her name.

Some things I have learned in my barley hen soup journey:

Don’t break apart the hen. I mean, you CAN, but why would you? You’ll need to lift it out later any way. Don’t make extra steps if you dont need to.

You can totally undercook a hen. A few hours in, I tested some of the meat. It was like chewing on unflavoured chicken jerky. More is more when it comes to cooking a hen.

When you add the hen meat back in to the finished product, chop it really really small. The consistency leaves a lot to be reckoned with. You’ll spend a long time chewing if you don’t reduce it to small, small pieces.

Other than that, this was an entirely delicious foray into cooking very inexpensive poultry. I’d recommend it.

PS: Some websites recommended I use an Instant Pot to cook my hen. I didn’t do that because I really like the feel of a cast iron pot when I am making stock. No reason why. I just like how it feels. However, if you click either the link to the Instant Pot or the cast iron pot and buy them from Amazon, I get a small dividend which helps me to pay for Max’s dog treats.

Max – who perked up when he heard the word “treat”

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