homemade vegetable bouillon

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.

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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. 

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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. And don’t forget to add skillet parmesan croutons to your menu line-up. 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).

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Homemade Vegetable Bouillon

makes one quart (4 cups)

Yes, this recipe really does need 7 ounces of salt. Remember, you’re curing the vegetables, and the salt ensures they do not go rancid. I’ve noted to use a measured teaspoon for each cup of prepared bouillon, but if you’re like me and prefer to dip in with one of your normal serving teaspoons, you will definitely need to add more water. Play around until you find the right ratio, since all silverware teaspoons are not created equal. And one last note—I have a monster Cuisinart (really, it’s 11 cups), so you may need to make this in two batches if you own a smaller food processor.

4 carrots, trimmed, scrubbed & cut into large pieces

3 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 leek, white part only, sliced

1 small onion, peeled & quartered

10 sun-dried tomato halves

1 1/2 cups cremini mushrooms (caps & stems), cleaned & quartered

2 cloves garlic

generous handful of fresh parsley, including stems

7 ounces salt

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it forms a wet paste and is well combined. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or separate into smaller portions to store in the freezer. To use, combine one measured teaspoon with one cup boiling water.

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Comments

  • Fuji Mama: I totally had a “duh!” smack my head moment when I read Heidi’s post! Why didn’t I ever think of that? I love your take on it!

  • Maria: GREAT post. I need to get making my own. Thanks!

  • LizaJane: I’m thinking that if it’s going to be frozen, the salt could be reduced?

  • Jennifer: LizaJane—you are absolutely correct, and reduce the salt if you plan on freezing the bouillon right away. Just keep in mind it will need seasoning when you dilute it or add to another dish.

  • Jennifer Hess: First of all, congrats on your Manicotti win! And second, the whole concept of DIY bouillon is brilliant, and I love your version.

  • Sandy: This is so much better than waiting forever to fill the pitiful little bag of veggie scraps in our freezer. I’ve just followed your directions and placed my fully filled quart jar in the fridge. However, now I’m wondering how long it will be at it’s best. Any idea? Thanks for the fab idea.

  • Emily-TheMotherhood: Thank you so much for this! I need this recipe soooooo badly. My freezer is overrun with frozen stock. This is so great!

  • paseo: I made this a week ago ago (like you leaving out the fennel & cilantro) and have used it several times already. I suspect it is going to be one of those things I don’t know how I did without. Very versatile (I even used it in a corned beef) and it really adds a great dimension. Thanks for posting. Made the manicotti night before last and we all loved it.

  • Susan: I love this idea but I’m deathly allergic to mushrooms. Is there a good substitute for them that would still ahve a lot of flavor? Thank you!

  • Alison: I don’t have a scale… how much is 7 ounces of salt?

  • Salma: Hi Jenni, couple of things: Any preference for type of salt? Guessing kosher, but just checking. Also, as for the tomatoes– I have some dry ones that require rehydrating. Will those work? I can imagine that the ones in oil may have more flavor, but these are an ancient couple of bags from trader joe’s, and I can’t think of a better way to put them to good use. Trying this tonight. I’m a huge stock fan, with a freezer full of chicken carcasses. this is so much more interesting…

  • Lisa: A friend made this an loves it, but it make so much. Can you half the recipe?

  • Jennifer Perillo: Lisa,

    Yes, you can halve the recipe.
    -JP

  • Sheila Lankford: Hi Jennifer, just wondering if there would be a way to reduce the sodium in this. I have been using Better than Bouillion reduced sodium bases and would like to try my hand at making my own. Maybe if it was stored in the fridge? I also noticed that yeast extract was one of the main ingredients in the reduced-sodium version of BTB, do you happen to know if that helps keep it stable? Any thoughts you might have on this would be great!

  • Sheila Lankford: Hi! Just found this recipe and am looking forward to trying it. However, is there a way to make this with less salt? Maybe by keeping it in the fridge? I have been using Better than Bouillion’s reduced sodium bases but would like to try my hand at homemade. Any thoughts? Thanks -

  • Jennifer Perillo: You would have to freeze it if you reduced the salt, as the salt acts as the curing agent. I can’t vouch for how long it will last in the freezer, and would recommend portioning it out if you choose to do that, since it will be hard to take the amount as needed from a frozen block.
    -JP

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