Editor’s Note: FSC Community Voices Contributor, Gina M, a local blogger at ModSchooler and a guest contributor at Albany Kid, is back with another doozie of a post: Homemade Veggie Bouillion. Its getting food preservation serious up in here! Her first post, No-Fuss Slow Cooker Beans is also terrific, perfect for the summertime no-heat kitchen! -Christina
It’s full-bore summer vegetable season, and that means an abudance of great local produce is ours for the picking. When you are paying a premium for good produce, either in sweat equity or hard cash, it makes sense to use it as thoroughly as possible, with little going to the composter.
One great idea I learned about in the late ’90s, when we were members of Homestead Farms CSA, was to make a veggie bouillion from herb and vegetable scraps. It’s an excellent way to use up remains of expensive herbs, and the other less-used parts of vegetables. The idea is to layer finely cut or chopped pieces of the herbs or vegetable parts with kosher salt in a large jar, and to stack these layers over time til the jar is full. The salt cures the vegetable matter, and while it doesn’t look too pretty a few weeks in, the flavors are blending and melding. When you are ready to use the salt, make sure it’s totally dry – you can speed the process in a low temp oven if you can’t wait, or if you like doing things in the background as life goes on, just let it dry on its own in the jar. Once it’s dry, I like to put it in a food processor to break down any larger lumps and to mix things more thoroughly for consistency’s sake.
- Large jar
- Kosher salt
- Cheesecloth or other breathable fabric & rubber band to hold it on the jar
- Scissors – best for cutting herbs and small stems, much easier than chopping with a knife, you can snip directly over the jar
- Using a clean jar, put in a layer of kosher salt covering the whole bottom. Go to about 1/4″ + depth
- Take clean and dry veggies of your choice and finely snip or chop and add in an even layer, you should see some salt peeking between pieces
- Add more kosher salt on the top of the veggie layer, lightly covering it – you want enough salt to keep things from getting icky
- If you have lots of veggies or herbs to use in one sitting, just keep doing alternate layers of salt and veg, ending with salt.
- Cover jar with cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber band
- Set in non-sunny dry area, and ignore it until you have more scraps to add
What materials should you use to make bouillion?
- Kosher salt – don’t use regular table salt, the kosher style grains work best with this method
- Carrot tops – stem and greens, they give the best body, trust me and don’t skimp on them, you’ll love the result
- Swiss chard – use up the stems that you pull off
- Garlic scapes
- Celery leaves
- Scallion and onion greens
- Beet green stems
- Herb stems – if they’re not hard and woody, slice ‘em up! Basil, sage, parsley, anything along those lines is great
- Brassicas: Kale, broccoli, cabbage, mustard greens are all too strong and don’t make a nice broth
- Woody stems like on thyme, sage or oregano aren’t a good move, you don’t want hard nuggets in the mix, and they don’t add much flavor. Stick to the softer parts of these types of plants.
- After a few weeks, it’ll look less pretty, but this is normal (see pic below)
QUICK HOW-TO SUMMARY: STORAGE, USES & TROUBLESHOOTING
- Use scissors to cut herbs and stems quickly and easily
- Make sure you use plenty of salt with thicker pieces of vegetable or herb matter to keep it from spoiling
- Cover your jar with cheesecloth or other breathable fabric lid to keep the dust (and, in our house, pet hair) out as you let the bouillion age
- You’ll notice liquid on the bottom of the jar after a week or two. This is normal, and the salt will keep things from getting icky – this is what makes the flavors blend nicely for the finished product
- If you have a full jar, but it’s not yet dried out, you can spread it out on a cookie sheet and oven dry it at 200 degrees – check often, don’t let it burn
- Once you’ve got the dried salt, throw it all in the food processor to grind it up finer and mix the flavors and textures thoroughly, and store in dry, tightly closed containers
- Use this instead of plain salt in most any savory dishes, it’s particularly nice in scrambled eggs, and I use it in pretty much everything from soup to meat to refried beans