Homemade Vegetable Bouillon
a DIY pantry essential better than anything store-bought
Originally published February 2010 at In Jennie’s Kitchen
You've been patient, and for that I thank you. Now, hopefully you've all tried or bookmarked my recipe for manicotti. Jennifer over at Last Night's Dinner gave them a thumbs up, so go check out what else is on her must-eat list after you're done visiting me here. A couple of weeks ago, I came across a recipe for homemade bouillon over at 101 Cookbooks. It was brilliant, and Heidi says even she hadn't thought of making it until reading about it in the River Cottage Cookbook.
This turned into an "a ha!" moment for me. If you love cooking from scratch as much as I do, or simply do it because you want to feed your family healthy, unprocessed food, there is no cure-all. Most of the basics on store shelves are just a ghost of what they pretend to be. And you know what, it makes sense. Those products must be processed to become shelf-stable.
That's where the brilliance of homemade bouillon comes into play. You don't have to worry about freezer or fridge space to keep a ton of vegetable stock on hand. All you need is room to store the one quart of bouillon this recipe makes and you'll have 48 quarts of homemade vegetable stock at your beck and call. Depending on which brand you normally buy, that'll shave over $150 off your grocery bill in the long run. It'll also leave you with a tastier base for soups, risottos, and even veggie burgers (I used it to cook lentils for "burgers"). It's also comforting to sip for a light lunch along with a salad or sandwich.
As Heidi explains, this technique is basically preserving chopped up vegetables with salt—a lot of salt (we'll talk more about that in a bit). I took her cue on some of the ingredients—the sun-dried tomatoes really rounded out the flavor. While I love fennel and cilantro, I left them out because they are pretty strong and I wanted a more subtle bouillon that would result in a more universal stock, though I suspect hers would be perfect in Mexican and Asian dishes. I also decided to add some cremini mushrooms, a.k.a. baby bellas, to give it an earthy undertone. I promise it's not too overpowering.
So there you have it. The second, well really first, baby step in building a creamy tomato soup. Oh, just make me one promise. It's not a big one, and you'll thank me for it. Let this bouillon sit minimum a few days before you use it so the flavors can develop. Like my husband whose turning 50 in a few short days, it's one of those things that just gets better with age. Next time we meet, I'll be bringing a recipe to get us all through the next six weeks of winter (damn you Mr. Groundhog).