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. 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).
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.