Free and Easy Home Made Chicken Bouillon Cubes
It is a truth well-known that commercial chicken bouillon cubes are useless for making bouillon – or anything else you might want to eventually eat. But the concept itself is great: put a cube in a cup, add boiling water and presto! chicken broth, curer of colds, foundation of soups – I’m thinking good thoughts about egg drop at the moment – and sauces too numerous to contemplate.
That’s why our freezer is always stocked with the homemade version. They aren’t as tiny as the salt bombs but they do squeeze a gallon of broth into a pile of little squares about the size of a yogurt tub (which is a very convenient thing to keep them in.)
HOMEMADE CHICKEN BOUILLON CUBES
One of those recipes that’s infinitely elastic and scarcely a recipe; the cubes are just heavily reduced broth. But since nobody I know seems to make them, even though a lot of those people are the sort of people you’d think would make them… (The easy part will be obvious. The free part is because I make ours using leftovers. No law against starting from scratch if you want.)
1. Each time you make (or eat, come to think of it) roast chicken, put the bones and picked over carcass in a heavy-duty freezer bag, label with the date and freeze. We include the bones from plates; knowing they will be extremely thoroughly cooked again, but this is certainly not essential. Other chicken parts and bones, cooked or uncooked, can also go in the bag as they appear. Only thing to avoid is strong non-chicken flavors. I once made a batch that had some bones from curry in it, and although the cubes were tasty their uses were limited.
2. When you have accumulated enough material to fill a stockpot (or large kettle) or within 3 months, whichever comes first, put the frozen stuff in the pot and cover it generously with cold water. If you’re feeling ambitious, add some chunks of carrot and celery – not much or the broth gets vegetal. Bring just to a boil, then lower heat to a bare simmer and cook for 1.5 to 2 hours. Or longer, if you’re busy and get distracted. Timing isn’t critical but if you let it cook forever the finished product will taste of bones in a not-good way.
3. Strain the broth into a bowl or bowls that will fit in the refrigerator. The finer the strainer the clearer the cubes but we’re not in France making perfect stock here and there will be two more chances to remove clouding particles. Let cool, cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 or 3 days.
4. Remove as much fat as possible from the top, mopping with paper towel at the end. Save fat or not ( see note). Spoon the semi-congealed broth into a wide kettle, leaving behind the particles in the bottom of the bowl. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and let it bubble away until it’s almost syrup – aka glace de poulet – but not quite that thick. Once more, plenty of wiggle room, but keep an eye on it near the end. If you cook it down too far it gets caramelized and that taste takes over from the chicken. Still useful as-is in sauces but less tasty reconstituted to broth.
5. Pour the reduced broth into a shallow pan that will hold it in a layer about 1 inch deep. Let cool, refrigerate until solid, then cut in roughly 1 x 1.5 inch cubes, wrap individually and freeze. They keep indefinitely. This is the second shot at particle removal. More will be in a layer on the bottom again so you can cut it off if you want; at this point the stuff is extremely firm. The layer is usually very thin and I usually don’t bother.
Note: The fat skimmed from the top of broth or stew or whatever is always watery and laced with impurities. It’s fine for things like flavoring mashed potatoes, roasting vegetables or greasing casseroles that will contain mac and cheese, but it’s no good for baking or frying.
ABOUT SALT : Even though none has been added, there’s still quite a bit in there because of the natural salts and whatever added seasoning is clinging to the chicken. My experience is limited, but I have a feeling grab and go roast chickens have very salty skins, so I don’t know what would happen if they were the primary source of chickenismo.