Colonial Kitchen | Bring out the Cock-a-Leekie Soup... We're Scottish!

Yes! You read that title right. We are Scottish! Like actually Scottish, and I have the proof. For the entirety of this series, which is still really young, I have been toting around my genealogy hints and facts. If you've been reading along with Colonial Kitchen, then you know that I love working on Ancestry.com. I am not an ambassador or even paid/sponsored by them; I just really love their website and love tracing our family history. For the most part, of the ancestors that I've been willing to trace, a majority of them were born in England. Kind of all over the board, but mostly England. A few Germans, some from Poland, and the other half are mainly Swiss. At least that's what I thought...

It was about six weeks ago that I sent in a vial of my spit (gross, I know) to Ancestry DNA. I had watched a friend go through the process and get his results back with some surprising information. It's kind of expensive, a little over $100 to do it, so I waited eagerly for my mind to make itself up. It was a luxury for me, but it was information that I felt I just needed to know. While I had a pretty good idea about my ethnicity, I was really really surprised to get the statement back:  10% Scots/Irish. What?!! Right after I sent in the spit vial, Jill asked me, "What do you think you'll be most surprised to read on the results?" My initial thought was if it said I had some Asian or even African descent. Even then, I figured it was possible. My friend had had those results, and it was kind of like, "Well, you never know where your ancestors came from." I think I was more surprised to find that my ancestors all stayed in one congregated area. That was almost impressive!

For those of you wondering about the DNA process, and if it is something that you might be interested in trying, it's really quite simple. Ancestry DNA sends you a kit with all of the steps you need to take. You basically just spit into the little tube they provide, package it up, and then send it off to their lab. Within 6-8 weeks, they contact you with the results, and then connect you with other people in the program who share similar DNA. They actually find your relatives! And you can join in on DNA groups of migrants to the US. It's really a cool process! Because I'm just so excited, here's my ethnicity breakdown:

  • 36% Western European (Primarily Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, and Belgium)
  • 23% Eastern European (Primarily Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary)
  • 18% Scandinavian (Primarily Sweden, Norway, Denmark)
  • 10% Scots/Irish 
  • 7% Italian/Greek 
  • 6% Great Britain 

I KNOW. What?! I was finding just consistent British ancestors, at least their birthplaces. It really wasn't too surprising to see that the largest percentage of my ethnicity was from Germany, Poland, and Switzerland. That's actually where all of my ancestors from Kalona are from. The relatives on my mom's side were one of the first families to live in this town in the 1840s, and obviously, we all still live here. Really, that's impressive!

I have no idea where the Greek/Italian fits in - that was strange to see! And the lowest percentage being from Great Britain. Wow! These results can just really blow your mind. But I am officially proud to say that I am 10% Scottish... or Irish, I suppose, but who's really checking? Yes, please! 

With all of these exciting things in mind, I knew it was time to research some traditional Scottish dishes for Colonial Kitchen. Now I can say that the ancestors who landed in New England in the late 1600s were of Scottish descent, right? I think I'll just get away with it for now. I bet they all sat around the hearth in the evenings and ate cock-a-leekie soup. Have you seen that Ancestry ad with the guy who says he traded in his lederhosen for a kilt? Yeah. I'm going to do that! Let's learn more about Scottish traditions and implicate those in the family. How fun!!! I cannot wait to celebrate Beltane and Samhain this year without feeling like a fraud! 

What exactly is Cock-a-leekie soup, you ask? It's a traditional Scottish soup primarily made up of leeks, chicken, prunes, and usually rice or barley. It's called Scotland's National Soup, though it's thought to have originated in France. This makes sense after reading up on the geographical history of the Celts. Did you know that the Celtic tribes originated in Germany and France? Yeah! And then they made their way into the Britain, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland when the Romans invaded. It was in Scotland that this soup inherited the traditional leek, and the name "cock-a-leekie" was not used until the 18th century. That's the time period that we're focusing on! Though this is often used as a winter dish and served on Hogmanay, I felt like I had to make it now in June to celebrate our new discovery!

INGREDIENTS | 

  • 3 lb chicken
  • 2 large leeks, sliced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 oz Scottish Whiskey
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 cloves
  • salt and pepper
  1. The evening before, prepare the brine. In a stockpot, fill with water, whiskey, honey, and spices. Stir until mixed well. Add about a tsp each of salt and pepper. Carefully place the chicken in the water. It may not be covered all the way, but make sure that it's fairly submerged. If some of the chicken is sticking out, just turn it over in the morning to soak the other side.
  2. Let sit overnight in the fridge.
  3. When it comes time to make soup (if you're eating at 5 PM, start at about a quarter to 3) bring out the chicken in the brine.
  4. Place over the stove and bring to a boil. Add the chopped onions and one of the leeks. If you have never used a leek before, make sure that you wash the sliced pieces! You don't want to eat the green tops, just cut until the stalk begins to separate into the tops. Separate and wash the rings, as they collect dirt easily. Add in another pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Once it's boiling, cover and let it simmer for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally, making sure the chicken isn't sticking to the bottom of the pot. Perhaps flip the chicken every now and then.
  6. Pull the chicken out to the best of your ability and pull off the meat and skin. If you left the gizzards in tact, remove those as well. Put the meat and skin back in the pot, and put the bones and gizzards aside for a different time (you can use these again to make bone broth!). Make sure it is shred or cut into small chunks.
  7. Add the second leek, sliced, and let the soup simmer another 10 minutes.
  8. Serve warm, with fresh bread and garnished with fresh thyme.

I've been really into broth soups lately, and this one is just absolutely delicious. I was a little nervous because the ingredients within where kind of, well, bland. This soup is anything but! The whiskey gives it this rich, sweet flavor that's almost indescribable. Mixed with savory herbs and the peppered chicken just makes it robust and mouthwatering. I was really surprised! And again with the broth - kind of nerding out about how cool broth is. I made garlic soup recently, which is just broth with some potatoes, and it blew my mind. So much powerful flavor and nutrients in flavored water. Really amazing! Herbs are awesome. So even though this is considered a winter soup, I think it fits really well for summer. Light, tasty, and oh so filling. Ten out of ten will eat again.

What are your favorite cultural related traditions to carry out each year? Are you like me, and maybe there's a new tradition waiting to be discovered? You should find out!!

xoxo Kayla