Recipe for Free Soup
First, buy a whole chicken.
I know, I said it was free, but as any physicist can tell you, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Free always has a price, even if it's sometimes hidden.
So buy a whole chicken. If you buy it from a nearby small farmer, you will be helping your local economy, your local ecology, your health, your taste buds, and your soul.
Oven roast the chicken, and serve it for dinner with your choice of sides. If you don't have a good recipe, see if your local library has a cookbook called "Best Recipe" or one of its kin. Be amazed at how good a home cooked meal can be.
I know, soup. We're getting there.
Put away the leftovers. Pick the remnants of good meat off the carcass. Set them aside. You can leave plenty on the bones - fat, gristle, meat that's tough to remove, etc.
If possible, cut the bones in half, either with kitchen shears or a large knife. It's not absolutely necessary, but it will release marrow, which will really give some life to your soup.
Put the remnants of the carcass in a big stock pot, and add a bunch of water. At least a gallon, maybe more if your stock pot is big. Add some salt -- maybe tablespoon or so, and another tablespoon of vinegar. (Don't worry if your soup smells like vinegar for a while. It'll go away. The vinegar is supposed to help draw out some extra nutrients.) You can throw in a bay leaf if you have it. Turn on the heat. You want to keep it just shy of boiling - A few bubbles every now and then, but not a full boil.
Now, get out a stalk of celery, a carrot or two, a couple cloves of garlic, an onion, and a potato. Substitute other veggies as you see fit. In mine, I left our celery because we didn't have any. I included a little corn, because we had some left from the roasted chicken dinner. Soup is great for using up leftovers.
Peel the papery skin off the onion and put the skin in the pot. (This will give some color to your broth.) Wash and peel the carrot(s) and potato and put their skins in the pot too. Pull off some celery leaves and put them in the pot.
Cut up all the vegetables and mince the garlic. Heat some oil in a large pan. Wait for it to shimmer. Then add the garlic and all the veg to the pan, along with a good healthy sprinkling of thyme and some salt and black pepper. You can add other seasonings if you like.
When everything in the pan starts getting tender, take it off the heat. Put it in a bowl with the meat you set aside earlier. You want your broth to cook for a good hour before you go any further, so you may want to put these veggies and meat in the fridge for a bit, depending on how your timing is going to work out.
Once the stock pot with the bones, peelings, etc. has been heating for an hour or more (more is fine), get out a big bowl and a strainer or colander. Pour the broth through the strainer into the bowl. Skim off the top of the bowl if necessary, to catch any bits that came through the strainer. Discard the bones and scraps.
Put the broth back in the stock pot, along with your sauteed vegetables and meat bits. Simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Toss in a couple handfuls of egg noodles. Then toss in another handful, because it's hard to have too many noodles in your soup, as far as I'm concerned. Cook until the noodles are appropriately soft. Add salt or seasonings to taste, but taste it first. Depending on how you roasted that chicken back at the beginning of this process, it may be plenty salty. Or it may need a good bit of salt.
Congratulations - you just made some excellent soup. And it didn't cost you anything. Let's look at the ingredients: Chicken bones and meat scraps - You were going to throw them out, right? Vegetables - You had them in your kitchen already. You just used the ones that would have gone bad waiting to be used. Herbs and/or spices - That much less going stale in the bottom of the jars. Tap water. Noodles.
So maybe not COMPLETELY free, but pretty effin' close. For a few pennies worth of ingredients, and stuff that most people would throw away, you have the equivalent of about a dozen cans of some damn fine soup.
Besides, "Free Soup" does sound a lot better than "Chicken Carcass Soup."