Sunday, February 26, 2012

And The Winner Is…

Truthfully, this post has nothing to do with awards, unless one were given for Best Performance By A Recipe.

The recipe that I’m going to tell you about is one that might change your life...or, at least, your shopping habits. Homemade Vegetable Bouillon doesn't SOUND all that earth-shattering, but, believe me, it is. 

I made a decision over a decade ago that the only stock I would ever BUY was vegetable stock. There were two reasons for this:

·         Number One - I figured that however poorly raised the chickens (or cows) were for general eating, you could quadruple that fact for the poultry and meat (and its parts) used in commercial stock.

·         Number Two - I was a card-carrying vegetarian for 10 years. For others, I still cooked (and taught) non-vegetarian recipes, but always with vegetable stock. Even now that I have abandoned my principled eating ;-) I still never buy chicken or beef stock.

(I may make chicken stock at home, but 99% of the time, I cook with vegetable stock.) And I only buy Bell and Evans chicken which, I learned from my stint at Whole Foods, is humanely raised and passes all WF’s various tests for quality.

ANYWAY, for YEARS I have been buying organic vegetarian stock. Of course, at times I have made my own and it was fine, but most of the time I didn’t bother.

Lo and behold a few weeks ago, I was THRILLED to find a recipe for homemade vegetable bouillon in the Culinate newsletter. (If you don’t subscribe, you really should. You just need to give the cover page a quick gander and often there are thoughtful articles and noteworthy recipes. Plus the fantastic Deborah Madison is a contributor.)

This vegetable bouillon is one of those cauliflower pizza-like things where lots of people have written about it and made all kinds of variations. Basically you chop up LOTS of DIFFERENT vegetables in a food processor and add salt. You add teaspoonfuls of the mixture to water and that’s your stock.

So…the first recipe I came across was the one that Culinate published from Katherine Deumling. She found the recipe from 101 Cookbook’s Heidi Swanson…who found the recipe in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin. Pam called it Souper Mix.

The original recipe doesn’t call for garlic, so I left it out. I’m always wary of freezing garlic and I took the comments on 101 Cookbooks to heart that the garlic overwhelms it.

The most noteworthy thing about this recipe is the amount of salt it uses. It is stunning.

But as Heidi remarked to one commenter, it’s super-concentrated and you use just ONE teaspoon of the bouillon to one cup of water. All three versions of this vegetable bouillon recipe feature more salt than you’ve ever used in your kitchen at one time, except for brining or cooking something in a salt crust.

The salt was a challenge to me. I got all the vegetables chopped (and weighed and measured). But when it came down it, I just couldn’t add all that salt. I couldn’t bring myself to. The problem was that when I tasted the bouillon mix by itself, it was SO salty that I practically spit it out and THAT was only using ¼ cup of salt. Then I tried it in a cup of hot water, (which is how Pam and Heidi suggest using it - Katherine uses 1½ cups of water) and it wasn’t nearly salty enough.

So, in the end, I added ½ cup of Kosher salt and, instead of 1 teaspoon, I stirred 1½ teaspoons into a cup of water to stand in for a cup of stock.  You’d need to be chemist (or Alton Brown) to figure out whether I was actually using more salt than they were.

One thing I know for sure - more salt would have given it more of the taste of a commercial product. But I was trying NOT to make a commercial product. The fresh flavor of the vegetables was wonderful and, of course, the salt enhanced that, but too much would be an interference. I decided that I would just add more salt to the finished dish…if I needed to. And the idea that this could replace all those tetrapaks of organic vegetable stock is really exciting.

Also, all the recipes I looked at weighed the vegetables. I did too, but then I scooped them into measuring cups to give an alternate way of measuring. Measuring cups ARE inexact, but I don’t think the amounts of the individual vegetables matter much. Just don’t let one overwhelm the bunch. To me, the most important measurement is this one – the amount of salt to vegetables. After you’ve chopped (or puréed) the vegetables, measure them in a glass pitcher. To 4½ cups of finely chopped vegetables, add ½ cup of Kosher salt.

My version uses either fennel OR celery root (celeriac). Use whichever one you hate less. Honestly, you can hardly taste it (with all that salt). Also, the other recipes use cilantro, which I don’t mind, but so many people have problems with it that I just used more parsley.


Vegetable Bouillon Mix (makes 4½ cups)
Printable recipe here

Adapted from recipes by Katherine Deumling, Heidi Swanson and Pam Corbin

All the vegetables should be chopped into 1 inch pieces. Measure vegetables after peeling and chopping. 

1¼ cups (5 oz.) leeks, well-washed and sliced OR 1¼ cups (5 oz.) sliced leeks and chopped onions, mixed
1½ cups (7 oz.) carrots, peeled and chopped
¾ cup ( oz.) celery, chopped
A scant cup ( oz.) of celery root (celeriac), peeled and chopped OR A scant cup ( oz.) fennel, tops cut cut off, outside layer removed and chopped
5 individual (1 oz.) sun-dried tomatoes in oil, cut into quarters
¾ cup ( oz.) shallots, peeled
1 bunch parsley, with 1 inch of stems left on, hardly chopped
½ cup Kosher salt

Place all ingredients except parsley and salt in food processor. 

Pulse 20 times to get vegetables evenly chopped. Add parsley and salt. 

Let food processor run until mixture is chopped as desired. (I wish I had chopped mine more.)

If you haven’t measured the vegetables too accurately, remove the vegetable mixture from the food processor before adding the salt. Measure and then process in ½ cup of Kosher salt to every 4½ cups of vegetables.

Pack bouillon into small freezer containers and freeze until ready to use. It’s not necessary to thaw, use a fork to get out as much as you need.  To make stock, add 1½ teaspoons of mixture to 1 cup of hot water. Taste for seasoning.

Add vegetable bouillon to anything that needs seasoning – meat loaf, soups, stews or sauces.


Anonymous said...

So the finely-chopped vegetables get cooked by stirring them into hot water? No sweating or simmering? What a time-saver! I'm going to have to try it.

I know it must have been very hard for you to add all that salt -- I'm proud of you, Sue! ;-)

Sue said...

Hi Tom,
Yup, that's precooking. Now you probably are adding the vegetables to something that has to be cooked - soup or a sauce, so I suppose you're not actually EATING them uncooked.

You should have seen me hesitating with the salt. I just couldn't decide what to do. I guess little by little works every time.

Sheila said...

Wow! This is awesome and timely for me for many reasons. 1) I'm about to go on that awful no milk or soy protein diet again and 2) I'm in a freezing frenzy.

Could you freeze it in ice cube trays? Aren't they like 1 oz ish a cube? How much would you use in a dish... Maybe it varies?

Love this - the ones at the store - EVEN the ones at WF often have lots of additives and dumb things in them. And the ones that don't (like Pacific) are super pricey!

Sue said...

Poor you!

Absolutely, you may freeze them in ice cube trays. But you really don't even have to bother. Because of all the salt, the mixture doesn't freeze that hard. You can just freeze it in small containers and then spoon out what you need.

1 1/2 teaspoons was enough for 1 cup of liquid. But I've felt tempted to add more, because that seems like so little. Start there and then add more as you go. AND purée it as finely as you can...

Abandoned By Wolves said...

This is a genuinely exciting idea for me - I can't wait to try it out. Muchas Gracias!