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It’s been said that many of my recipes start with ¼ cup of lard. That might actually be true and now that I think about it, this recipe holds many of the hallmarks of my cooking.

I scribbled it out in an email for a dear friend a couple of years ago after I brought a pot of soup to a potluck meal. The use of the word “ish” along with whole heads of garlic and plenty of cilantro also seem common among my everyday recipes – who has time for exact measurements and shouldn’t everything begin and end with garlic and cilantro, respectively?

Bone broth, of course, makes the cut as does a combination of homegrown and store-bought staples. I suppose it represents the days of the in-between that I frequent; this space in which we work for money to build homestead infrastructure so that we don’t need money so much anymore.

It’s awkward and complicated and… not at all what many people imagine our life to actually be. Some days we haul dirt and pitch hay and milk goats all day. Some days we stare at computer screens while the other is in the trenches juggling the parenting and homesteading and off-grid living all on their own. It’s almost never pretty but it is the process and that process is gold.

Getting back to this recipe… I found it the other day along with the photo I took to accompany it. I wrote it out just days before Ruthie turned one, months before I found out we were expecting baby Joshua, and one day before I turned 32. That was a year and a half ago.

In that time much has changed. I am beginning to find gray hairs, if ever I meet a mirror. I noticed the same of Stewart’s hair when he trusted me with the scissors. We now kiss five little ones goodnight, one of whom is threatening to outgrow me anytime. Three goats, at least double the chickens, and a three-acre pasture are now a part of our homestead.

Still, much remains the same. We’re still a long way from growing much of our own food. Right now, though, we do have a few roosters to knock off, there are greens galore in the garden, and garlic and cilantro are either in the garden or in the harvest basket. A pot of soup can heal just about anything and is always the easiest way to feed our growing crowd. And so, even in the heat of summer, it is a constant in our weekly meals.

I’m afraid I ruin this vignette completely, however, in admitting that we are out of lard. As they say, I guess the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes.

Garlic & Cilantro Mexican Chicken Soup


  • 1/4 cup lard
  • 2 lb chicken thighs breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 6 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 32(ish) oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 quarts broth
  • 5 cups prepared beans
  • 1-2 bunches collard greens, chopped into 1” pieces
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne, depending on how spicy you want it
  • juice of 1-2 limes or lemons
  • 1 bunch cilantro, minced, plus more for serving
  • salt to taste


Heat the lard in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Fry the chicken, working in batches, until browned. Remove to a platter and add onion, celery, garlic, and carrots. Cook several minutes or until onions begin to wilt. Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, broth, prepared beans, collards, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Return chicken to the pot.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover partially and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until all of the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through.

Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste. Add additional cayenne, if desired. Serve with cilantro, avocado, sour cream, tortillas, or your favorite Mexican-inspired toppings.


I have done all the bone broth tricks – long simmering, apple cider vinegar, crock pot, stock pot, beef bones, chicken bones, vegetables, no vegetables. This one’s new, to me at least. I can tell you up front that it involves an overnight sit and gave us some very gelatinous broth.

I was perusing an older cookbook called The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy recently. I really enjoy these types of cookbooks because, while they’re not full of the colorful magazine photos we all love, they have lots of little tidbits from home cooks that you just can’t get anywhere else.

In one recipe for a chicken soup, she cited the following method for making chicken broth:

  1. Simmer the chicken carcass for 4-6 hours, partially uncovered.
  2. Cover the pot and let sit overnight in a cool location. She specifically mentions that this step helps to draw the flavor, minerals, and gelatin from the bones.
  3. In the morning, scrape off the fat and bring the broth to a boil.
  4. Remove from the heat and strain.


This process appealed to me because, not only is it something I’d never tried but it also fits in well with my normal rooster broth routine. Often when we are butchering chickens, I don’t get them into the pot until well after the lunch rush. With this method I can get in my 4-6 hours of simmering before evening kitchen chores like straining goat milk and feeding ferments. The next day the broth is ready to go, no refrigeration required.

I used this method last week when making chicken broth and ended up with jars that, once chilled, contained some of the most gelatinous of homemade broths. After making a few tweaks of my own, I thought I’d share my process.

My New Bone Broth Procedure

  1. Cover chicken carcass with water by two inches. Add 1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar.
  2. Bring broth to a simmer and lower heat as low as it will go while maintaining a slight simmer. Leave uncovered or partially covered and simmer 4-6 hours.
  3. Remove from heat, cover pot, and let sit on the counter overnight.
  4. In the morning, skim off fat, if desired. I only do this when the animal is a very fatty one.
  5. Bring the broth to a boil again. Remove from heat, allow to cool enough to handle, and strain into jars.


It was delicious when simmered alongside the okra we have been harvesting, plenty of spices, and grass-fed beef. (Gumbo, where have you been all my life?)

And now this method is the one I will be using for bone broth going forward. There are some great articles with a vast list detailing the healing constituents of bone broth. Anecdotally, we always feel better when we eat it and, in an agrarian sense, I love how it’s just common sense nourishment.