I'm a list shopper when it comes to buying groceries. My mind goes blank when I walk into a grocery store and I forget all about the great meal plan I made just that morning. Add to that the fact that I only go grocery shopping once a week and it makes a "no list" scenario really ugly. Ugly as in, "Sorry babe, but we're eating old cornflakes with diluted cream for breakfast for the next few days" ugly.
Despite my diligence in using a list, though, there are a few ingredients I can never remember to buy. For some reason, the words "chicken broth" are invisible to me when on a grocery list. I skip right over them every time and come home without a single can. After multiple last-minute trips to the grocery store to buy more broth for a soup already in progress or rice or whatever I happen to be cooking, I finally broke down and starting buying some bouillon-type paste that can be used to reconstitute broth in a pinch. It's not my favorite solution since I cringe sometimes when I read the ingredient list, so I finally decided to try making my own emergency bouillon.
As with many great kitchen adventures at my house, this one began with a google search. A couple methods to make your own bouillon involved boiling down chicken stock to a very concentrated, syrup-like form. If you are looking for a meaty flavor in your bouillon, this might be the route you would want to take. Since most of the time I just need a little flavor to be added to a soup or other food, it isn't essential for me to have chicken flavor in my back-up bouillon.
Also, I'm lazy.
The recipe that finally caught my eye was from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook as seen on 101Cookbooks. It appealed to my laziness because all you do is chop things up in a food processor and you are done. The original recipe had a fairly long ingredient list that included things like celery root and fennel. Since the purpose of this bouillon was to eliminate trips to the store and not add them, I decided to simplify it a bit and just include ingredients that I like. If you decide to make this at home, feel free to modify it to fit your tastes. It also a great way to us up extra vegetables or herbs that you might have around. I would just advise against using anything too distinctly flavored, such as garlic, so that your finished bouillon will be more versatile. Then again, if you put garlic in just about everything, you might want to add it.
The finished product from spending a few minutes of stuffing veggies of your choice into the food processor is a paste-type mixture that you can use to replace bouillon in recipes that call for it. When I want to use it as stock, I add 1 tsp per cup of water. You will likely still need to add salt to taste, despite how much salt is in the bouillon recipe. Also, I should warn you that you must not, under any circumstances, taste the bouillon plain. Trust me on this. You and your tongue will regret it for about five minutes. If you are a habitual taster (which is a good thing, usually) you should dilute it in some hot water and adjust your seasoning from there. Due to the same high salt content that makes it impossible to eat plain, you can store it in the freezer and it won't solidify, making it easy to scoop out a teaspoon or two when you need it.
As I said before, this bouillon won't give a meaty flavor to your food so this won't work for all recipes. I've found that it works well for foods where the bouillon can be cooked for a good amount of time before serving, such as in soups, some pasta dishes and slow cooked food. It also makes a killer ranch dressing, which I'm sharing the recipe for as well. In fact, with how easy this is to make, I'd say it is worth making it for the ranch dressing alone.
Just don't forget to buy the lettuce when you are at the store.
Homemade Bouillon Substitute
1 lb carrots, peeled
8 oz (about 1/2 bunch) celery
8 oz onion (one medium)
3/4 cup salt
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 bunch parsley
Add the carrots, celery and onion to the food processor and pulse about twenty times. Stir the chopped vegetables to get the larger pieces to the bottom, add the salt and pulse a few more times. Add the cilantro and parsley and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped and forming a loose paste, stirring as necessary to get larger pieces to the bottom to be chopped. Store in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for two months. Makes about 3 1/2 cups.
Recipe Source: adapted from 101Cookbooks.com
Homemade Ranch Dressing
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 - 2 tsp homemade bouillon (depending on how salty your bouillon is)
1/8 tsp dried dillweed
1/8 tsp garlic powder (fresh garlic works, too, but I find it is harder to get it evenly distributed in the dressing.)
1/8 tsp fresh pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients. Add salt and pepper and more bouillon to taste. Adjust consistency with additional buttermilk or sour cream. Makes about 1 cup dressing.