You can absolutely make homemade bouillon. And I know you can thanks to Pam Corbin. Pam wrote the lovely River Cottage Preserves Handbook.* In the very back of this exquisite little book, long past the rhubarb relish, and well beyond the piccalilli and winter fruit compote, she proposes a simple idea: make your own bouillon. I'm not sure why this never occurred to me, but until I reached page 207, it hadn't. She outlines a list of ingredients that are pureed into a concentrated paste of vegetables and herbs, preserved with salt. I've been cooking with a version of it all week, and it is infinitely better than any canned vegetable stock I've tasted. And the best part about it? You can build on the general idea and tweak it based on what is in season and my own personal preferences - which is what I did.
What is Bouillon?
Technically, a bouillon cube is a dehydrated cube or powder used to create an instant vegetable stock. Pam calls her version "souper mix"....but you use it in a way similar to bouillon cubes. It is used to make quick, flavorful broth. For example, when cooking soups, risottos, curries, whatever really.
A Few Tips
The main thing? Keep in mind bouillon is quite salty and very concentrated. I mention in the recipe I've been using 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of water/liquid to start. You can adjust from there based on what you're making and personal preference. And as far as variations go, this first batch was made primarily with ingredients from my refrigerator, but I'm really excited to try other versions using different herbs and ratios of the base ingredients. In fact, if you have any suggestions or ideas give a shout in the comments - I'd love to hear them!
More Bouillon Variations
A number of your variations caught my attention, so I thought I'd highlight a couple here. Love these!
- Karen "tried a variation with local ingredients: carrot, long onion (like a leek), daikon radish, japanese wild parsley, salt, and 7 pepper blend. added a bit of soy sauce for more salt and flavor, too. then i used it to make red lentil soup. WOW! the soup never tasted so good!!!"
- Dominican Foodie liked the texture of the version she made noting, "I made a couple of changes to your recipe. I doubled the ingredients (except salt and tomatoes) Added extra garlic and white onions, juiced the first half (set aside), tossed the second half in olive oil and roasted for two hours, then tossed everything into a large deep pot, added bay leaves and simmered until liquid was reduced by half. Took out bay leaves, stuck an immersion blender in the pot and smoothed everything out into a paste. Perfection!"
This recipe requires a food processor. I have a 8-cup / 2 liter / 2 quart model, and needed every cubic inch of it. I found the best approach if you are tight for space in your food processor is to add a few of the ingredients, then pulse a few times. The ingredients collapse and free up more space for the next few ingredients. If you don't find yourself using much bouillon, I will suggest making a half batch of this. And for those of you wanting to do a version with no salt, freeze the pureed vegetables in small amounts - say, ice cube trays, just after pureeing them. Introduce salt in whatever amount you like later in the cooking process.
- 5 ounces / 150 g leeks, sliced and well-washed
- 7 ounces / 200g fennel bulb, chopped
- 7 ounces / 200g carrot, well scrubbed and chopped
- 3.5 ounces / 100 g celery
- 3.5 ounces / 100g celery root (celeriac), peeled and chopped
- 1 ounce / 30g sun-dried tomatoes
- 3.5 ounces / 100g shallots, peeled
- 3 medium garlic cloves
- 9 ounces / 250g fine grain sea salt
- 1.5 ounces / 40 g flat-leaf parsley, loosely chopped
- 2 ounces / 60g cilantro (coriander), loosely chopped
Place the first four ingredients in your food processor and pulse about twenty times. Add the next four ingredients, and pulse again. Add the salt, pulse some more. Then add the parsley and cilantro. You may need to scoop some of the chopped vegetables on top of the herbs, so they get chopped. Mine tended to want to stay on top of everything else, initially escaping the blades.
You should end up with a moist, loose paste of sorts. Keep 1/4th of it in a jar in the refrigerator for easy access in the coming days, and freeze the remaining 3/4 for use in the next month. Because of all the salt it barely solidifies making it easy to spoon directly from the freezer into the pot before boiling.
Start by using 1 teaspoon of bouillon per 1 cup (250 ml), and adjust from there based on your personal preference.
Makes roughly 3 1/2 cups.