Vegan Daughter Paleo Son

Basic Veggie Freezer Bouillon Cubes

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Basic Veggie Freezer Bouillon Cubes

The most intensely delicious French dishes start with a mirepoix, which is essentially 2 parts onion, 1 part celery, and one part carrot. This is where this freezer bouillon method begins.

In my studies of classic cuisine, before the beginning of each class whoever arrived first would start the broth cooking. Savory rich broth was made usually with saved veal or chicken bones and tons of onion, carrot, and celery. The broth was allowed time to develop and then it was strained and shared to add depth, body, and flavor to any number of dishes.

In Vegan cuisine studies, class started essentially the same way… with a large pot filled with water and aromatic and flavorful veggies. A ladle or two hooked onto the pot stood at the ready for cooks to scoop out and strain rich flavorful broth. One big advantage to the vegan broth was that is had no fat to get in way. Just flavor.

The thing which aches my resourceful heart is that at the end of cooking all those once vibrant beautiful vegetables are discarded. Just thrown away, the pot cleaned and back on the rack to do it all again the next day. While I accept that some food waste is inevitable and one pretty much needs to just get over it, if there is a place in the home kitchen where waste can be reduced and every molecule of nutrition used, then why not use everything? Those little veggies worked very hard to grow into whole foods. Let’s use them!

Still, making your own broth base takes time. Why bother?

Here’s why:

  • You are in control of the quality on ingredients you use.
  • You can make it salt free. So many commercial veggie bases and salt bombs! Or, you can use a better salt like pink himalayan sea salt, or something like umeboshi plums.
  • No added preservatives or unwanted ingredients. Just pure clean delicious vegetables.
  • You save money. Box broth = 3.00 – 4.00 per 32 ounces. For the cost of my veggies, adding 1 cup to every cube, I get an amount equivalent to about 6 boxes. I can easily afford to go organic at these rates.
  • You save shelf space, although you do need some freezer space. The water is added in when you are ready to cook your dish. You store only concentrated flavor. With commercial brands, you are storing essentially flavored water. You can opt to buy shelf stable veggie bouillon cubes, a great space saver! But then you usually get all the salt and unwanted ingredients.
  • Convenience! Any time you want a flavor boost or a really quick soup, you can just grab a frozen cube or two from the freezer and melt it into the dish. Great for sauces, gravies, soups, stews, even cheese or faux cheese dips. Dinner is on the table fast!
  • It tastes better.
  • Bonus! It makes for an easy tool for adding more nutrition into your dishes.

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On the day I made this broth, my meat-loving son came downstairs to ask what smells so delicious. 🙂 Vegetables! Those moments are precious. 🙂 Generally I am more in favor of transforming and celebrating vegetables rather than hiding them.  It is good that kids learn that vegetables are just delicious foods that happen to be good for the body. That said, I do slip in veggies all over the place where they are somewhat disguised. My kids have grown up eating so much more carrots and celery than they realize, and much of it is through broth used in their favorite dishes.

Enough talk… Here’s how!

The Base

Start by preparing your veggies. Wash them, no need to peel carrots and celery. You can keep all that nutrition. Peel and discard the tough outer layer of onions. Or use leeks for a milder flavor. You can also substitute celery root for the celery. Peel and smash your garlic.

Because root vegetables grow underground and are more heavily inundated with pesticide, organic is preferable if you can get it.

You do not have to be precious about chopping your veggies. We are not really concerned about even cooking as it will all get blended. I am using these little containers from my local Chinese grocer because they measure 2 cups. But honestly, most of the time I just throw in what I have on hand without measuring. Often additional seasonal veggies go in the pot too. Zucchini, turnips, even leafy greens. I just avoid anything that might be bitter.

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Put your veggies into a pot and just cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook them until they are tender. If you need to add a little water during the cook time because the amount reduces, that is fine. Because we will be reducing this puree, too much water will slow down the process. Use as little as possible. We will cook out the water and reserve the nutrients.

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Even more nutrition!

Adding in a strip of kombu or a couple of bay leaves will break down the veggies in a way that makes them more bioavailable, pulling out all that nutrition and allowing your body to digest it better.

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Once veggies are tender, blend them! If you do not have an immersion blender, you can use any blender, but it would be best to let the water cook out a bit and cool it enough to allow for safe handling as you transfer the veggies to and from the blender.

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Blend until smooth.

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Flavor enhancers

If you used a regular blender, return puree to the pot and stir in flavor enhancers, tomato paste and liquid aminos. Feel free to use any enhancer you like! Vegan worcheshire sauce, herbs that go well with many dishes, like thyme, umeboshi plum paste as a salt replacer… whatever you like in a broth. As noted below, I would definitely add a little miso if I had some on hand.

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Cook on a low-medium heat until it has reduced and thickened enough to be scoopable. Alternatively, you can skip this step and just pour the mixture into ice cube trays to freeze. They will be a little less concentrated, but that is not a problem, just use them with a little less water when you are ready to cook with them.

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Convenience

At this point, you can allow the mix to cool. Then scoop mounds onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment. Get them into the freezer quickly. Or you can always use your ice trays. They make cubes that are a little neater. I just like my scoops. 🙂

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Once frozen, transfer the cubes into a freezer bag or sealed container. Keep them in the freezer and use as needed.

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Basic Veggie Freezer Bouillon Cubes

You can start with this basic mix and then customize it as desired. Add in additional veggies and flavorings. Reduce any that are too prevalent for your taste. Make it your own! Having these on hand is great time and money saver.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups carrots, rough chopped (or a little less, if prefered)
  • 2 cups celery, rough chopped – may be substituted with celery root
  • 2 cups onion or any combination of leeks and onion, rough chopped – leeks are more mild
  • 2 green onions, rough chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2-3 bay leaves or 1-2 inch chunk of kombu
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired
  • 2 t tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon liquid aminos, tamari, soy sauce or coconut aminos and/or a little miso!

Method

Prepare all your veggies by washing them and rough chopping them so they will be easier to puree. Do not worry about precise measurements. No need to peel carrots and celery.

Add your veggies (onion, carrot, celery and garlic) to a pot and just cover with water. Add in bay leaves or kombu. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer. Simmer til tender, about 30 minute.  If you need to add a little water during the cook time because the amount reduces, that is fine. Because we will be reducing this puree, too much water will slow down the process. Use as little as possible.

Fish out bay leaves or kombu.

Once veggies are tender, blend them! If you do not have an immersion blender, you can use any blender, but it would be best to let the water cook out a bit and cool it enough to allow for safe handling as you transfer the veggies to and from the blender.

Stir in tomato paste, and liquid aminos (or whichever product you are using) and salt. 1/2 teaspoon salt is a small amount but you will be concentrating the flavor and salting you dishes later. For other salt options see this post. If I were not out of miso, I would definitely throw a little in for a deeper umami flavor.

OPTIONAL (for reducing to concentrate flavor and save space) Cook on a low-medium heat until it has reduced and thickened enough to be scoopable. You can skip this step and just pour the mixture into ice cube trays to freeze. They will be a little less concentrated, but that is not a problem, just use them with a little less water when you are ready to cook with them.

Place mix into ice trays or scoops on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Immediately place into freezer.

Once frozen, transfer cubes or scoops into a freezer bag or sealed container. Keep in the freezer and use as needed. Depending on how concentrated your cubes are, you can melt one cube into a cup or two of hot water for a delicious low-salt, highly nutritious, additive-free quick and easy vegetable broth. Or just throw them into a variety of dishes for added flavor and nutrition.

Enjoy!

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