Editor note: Let me just admit here how many times I had to think about the spelling of the word bouillon while writing this and that was after looking it up multiple times to make sure. It was a lot. Like every time I wrote it. Bull-yawn. It’s a tricky word. Even now I look up in the title for this post and see an extra “i”. Again.
A popular way to add flavor to common backpacking food staples like noodles and such is bouillon. It is basically what that little spice packet is that comes with Top Ramen, for example. No one actually believes that there is any nutrition in there, but it sure makes things tasty.
I like to build my meals from basic dehydrated ingredients that I have stocked in my fridge and I thought it might be fun to see if I could come up with a “spice” packet of my own. That would mean starting from scratch, because if you have ever read the labels on bouillon at the store you know there’s no way I could use that.
When you become a nutrition label reader, it can come as quite a surprise all the things you might find hidden (or not so hidden) inside your favorite food products.
See, even these folks couldn’t figure out the word bouillon and just went with “base.”
Yeah, no thank you to the soybean oil, grits and powder, potato starch, pea powder, and maltodextrin (sugar).
#chickenbroth #vegetables #sage #thyme #rosemary #seasalt #ginger #garlicpowder
I made this in 2 parts, a chicken part and a vegetable part. You CAN skip the chicken part and just go for the vegetables and still have a tasty bouillon powder.
Starting with the chicken side, I opted for a broth I buy at Costco. I make my own beef broth but I have never liked the work of making chicken broth with all those bones. It’s worth it for turkey vegetable soup but not so much for broth. For me, anyway. Your call. If you want to make your own, here’s a good recipe.
There are a couple decent brands at Costco, and of course you can find pastured chicken brands like this one. However, to make this recipe worth it, I would need a high volume of broth and the good stuff is cost prohibitive for me.
For this part, bring 32 ounces of broth to a boil and then reduce to a soft simmer on medium low heat. Your goal is to reduce it down to a thick sauce so you can put it in the dehydrator by evaporating the water (and it’s mostly water).
It will take 25-30 minutes and as the liquid gets low in the pan, you will want to watch it and stir occasionally to keep it from burning to the bottom of the pan. I reduced mine down to about a few tablespoons. Yep, that’s it.
I put this tiny bit of flavor gold onto a jelly roll tray and let it dry overnight on the meat setting (145 to 155 degrees) until I was able to pick it up and break it into pieces. You want it brittle. I put it in my spice grinder (the food processor is a bit big for this job).
If it doesn’t break down into a powder, put the pieces back into the dehydrator to dry a bit longer.
Eventually, I had 4 teaspoons of powder. It was actually a little depressing. So little…
Doing the math, I figured this gave me 4 servings (1 tsp per 8 ounce cup of water) to bring it back to it’s original state. Not sure that was worth it. You can see why those store bought brands add all that filler!
Debating my options, I thought about the how my bf makes HIS broth, with just straight up veggies. Following his cue last year, I started storing my vegetable scraps in the freezer to add to soups and such for flavor or if I needed to make vegetable broth for vegan recipes for the family.
Hmmm…I bet I could use them to supplement my broth and add more vegetables to my meals. Bonus!
I had two canning jars of scraps, about 8 cups frozen. It was a mix of onion, kale, celery, carrots, parsley, broccoli and cabbage. I tossed it in the food processor (only defrosted enough to get it out of the jar) and broke it down into small pieces. Obviously, completely defrosted will dehydrate faster. I was letting mine go overnight so I wasn’t worried about it. If you don’t have scraps, any combination of similar vegetables will work.
If you are going the vegan route or just want more flavor, you could soak your vegetables a few hours in coconut aminos before dehydrating them to give more depth to the flavor of the bouillon.
Once dry, I tossed this in the food processor and then the spice grinder to break it down into a powder.
You want it to be as fine as possible so that it will rehydrate into a broth and not have too many chunky things floating around. If you will probably be adding this to meals, not such a big deal, but if you want to drink it, definitely more appetizing.
Now I had some chicken powder and some vegetable powder to use for a base to add flavor to.
I was just going to use dried spices I already had but I scored some fresh that day; some sage, rosemary and thyme. Hey, I think there is a song…don’t pretend you didn’t just read that to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel. These three spices are also commonly called poultry seasoning, maybe because it reminds you of how turkey and stuffing smell fills the house on Thanksgiving day.
I added these to the dehydrator set to “herbs”, about 95 degrees, and let dry a few hours until crisp and brittle. They should flake when you pick them up. Except rosemary, she is one tough chick. She’s more stubborn and likes to just crack instead.
Powder these by hand or in your spice grinder.
If you want to see the difference between herbs you dry yourself and the ones you buy in the store, here was my newly made poultry seasoning next to some store bought.
Big difference, right?
Okay, now I am ready to put them together. I used 2 tablespoons of the vegetable powder…
…and 1 teaspoon of the chicken powder for my base, plus 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. If you are thinking that is a lot of salt, trust me. Bouillon needs to be a bit salty and you will want that on the trail. I tried it with a bit less and although the flavor was there, the salt makes the drink more appetizing.
Then for one, I added 1 teaspoon of my dried spices to make a “chicken” flavor and to the other one I added 1 teaspoon of dried ginger to make an “oriental” flavor.
To make a cup of broth, I used 1 heaping teaspoon to 8 ounces of hot water. I guess I should have known it would be green with all the vegetables, but it still took me by surprise. And it was quite tasty, too.
I think I will use the bouillon in recipes as I make my backpacking meals, but I also like the idea of keeping the spices separate so when I make meals on trail I can add whatever flavor I feel like the day!
Now, what will I do with this, you might ask? Here are some ideas:
- Paleo Top Ramen: sweet potato noodles, bouillon and veggies.
- Chicken Pot Pie: dried sweet potatoes, bouillon, meat and veggies.
- Oriental Chicken Salad: Dried cabbage (like this recipe), dried chicken, bouillon and almond slivers.
- Drink it straight up as an alternative to hot cocoa or tea!
Do you have favorite meals you add bouillon to? Do you like to drink it straight up?