Thursday, November 14, 2013

Make Your Own Bouillon Cubes

I love using bouillon cubes. Why? Because they add a little extra flavor punch to whatever it is you're making. Unfortunately, commercial bouillon cubes are filled with artificial flavors and ingredients, and I stopped buying them when the last cube was used up (and after I read about all the crap in them).

Fortunately, I am a resourceful type. I was cruising YouTube one morning while avoiding house work (as you do) and I found a video that was about dehydrating your own bouillon. I had a moment where I looked like a really dumb but happily clapping seal, and then watched it. It looked so easy, even a dehydrating newbie like me felt comfortable giving it a try. (Also, thank you BexarPrepper, I love your videos!)

I already knew how to make bone broths, but I was finding them really bulky. I only have a small amount of freezer space, and a lot of that was being taken up by 1 liter containers of bone broth, so I decided to give bouillon cubes a go. (If you've been paying attention to my other blogs, you'd know that I'd already done a batch of lamb bouillon granules; this is my first time just leaving them as "cubes".)

Yummy broth flavorings.
So, let's see what we need to make some bouillon:

Meat: Seems obvious, I know, but I am a carnivore, and I am making meat broth bouillon. Any meat would do, really: chicken, beef, pork, fish, even game meats like venison or wallaby or other animals. Basically, any animal you can chop up and put into a crock pot (vegetarians and vegans are advised that this recipe is not for them.) Use the big marrow bones, use the fatty bits, the cartilaginous bits, the meaty off cuts. All of it is good.

Vegetables: Any veg will do. Pick your favorites. I usually have carrots, onions, and garlic hanging around. Occasionally I add peppers, bulb fennel, leeks, whatever might be around from the garden

Herbs and Spices: Again, your call. I use sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and bay leaves, mainly because I'm growing them in my garden. I also use black pepper corns, and sometimes dried chili flakes. You can choose according to the meat. Parsley, tarragon, mint, dill, whatever pleases you. I don't add salt, because I can always add that later.

Water: That's pretty self explanatory.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Optional, but it helps to break down the bones a bit so the minerals can leech out into the broth to make it extra nutritious.

So now we're down to the process. If you are a 5-minute microwave type cook, then you're going to have to break out the "My Superpower Is Patience" tee shirt, because this recipe takes a few days.

Place the meat and bones in a crock pot, add the ACV if you are using it, and cover with water. It must cook for a couple days on high to make a truly yummy bone broth.After the first 8 hours or so, when the meat is falling off the bones, that is the time to strip the flesh off and use it for other things. Leave the bones and cartilage to cook for the rest of the allotted time. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, discard the bones in the compost or give them to the dogs, and pour the broth into a large pot and keep heated. (If there is a lot of fat, you should let it chill, then skim the fat off. You don't want your broth to be very oily.)

If you're like me, trying to de-clutter the freezer by using the broth, melt all the broth in a large pot until it's liquid (seriously; I used about 6 liters of broth for this recipe).

The finished broth; like meat leather.
Once you have your strained broth heating on the stove, add your vegetables, herbs and spices. My faves are carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaves, black pepper corns, dried chilies, and fresh sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano.

Bring that lot to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are so tender you can mash them with a fork. Strain the lot again, to leave yourself the flavored stock. Turn the heat up on the stock, and boil rapidly. If you so choose to use the vegetables, you can pick out the bay leaves and pepper corns, mash the soft veggies into a puree, spread them on a fruit roll up sheet, and dehydrate. Once dried, you can make a vegetable powder with them, which can be used to supplement your bouillon.

Eventually, the stock you're boiling will thicken and darken considerably. All the collagen and gelatine from the meat and bones will be concentrated, thickening it up nicely into a heavy syrup. If you left it in the pot to cool, it would set into a meat stock flavored jelly. 

But we're not making jellies. We're making bouillon.

Once it starts getting thick, you have to be attentive. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. The consistency should be somewhere between runny honey and thick molasses.

The bouillon "cube".
Once you have reached the right thickness, remove immediately from the heat, let cool slightly (not too much, or you won't be able to pour it), and then pour the syrupy meaty goodness onto a fruit roll up tray. Place in your dehydrator and, on the highest temperature setting, proceed to dehydrate.

This will take a while. It might even take a few days. The goal is to get the bouillon down to a thick, leathery texture. It should peel off the tray easily, and shouldn't be sticky.

Once you have peeled off the leathery bouillon, lay it out on a cutting board and carefully cut it into small pieces, approximately 3/4s to 1 inch in size. These are your bouillon "cubes". They should be stored in a fairly airtight jar (I love my recycled Moccona coffee jars), and so long as they remain dry, they should last for a long time.

Now that you've made your bouillon (hurray!) you can use it. I've figured that one of these cubes equals about 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of broth. You should dissolve the bouillon in freshly boiled water. It dissolves faster that way. When you use your broth, you can add salt to your taste, as the bouillon is unsalted.

Dissolving the cube into broth.
The broth is fairly flavorful, and because it's all home made, you know exactly what's in it, so there are no worries about possible allergens or artificial junk. It also makes much better broth than the stuff you can buy at the stores. Potentially, this is a pretty cheap way of doing it, if you get the meat scraps for cheap (or from your own animals) and grow your own herbs and vegetables. It definitely allows for more space in your freezer for other things.

I hope you've enjoyed today's little Make Your Own lesson. If you do get around to trying this out, please feel free to post in the comments about your experience.

Happy cooking!

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