Monday, September 13, 2010

My Bouillon Conundrum

For the past couple of years I have been using a bouillon paste in all my soups, stews, sauces, gravies, etc, called Better Than Bouillon. Anywhere I would use broth I would throw in a little of this bouillon paste. If I ran out or didn't find any bouillon paste at the store I would have some Knorr bouillon hanging around just in case. I have a million reasons not to make fresh stock, I use my time to focus on cooking other things, I don't have freezer space to store great blocks of frozen stock. Bouillon is cheap and it's convenient.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that my Organic Better Than Bouillon contained Maltodextrin, a highly processed corn based sweetener. I was totally bummed. I don't have time or energy to make stock! Please Lord don't take away my bouillon paste! I decided in my heart this would be one thing, one weird food additive that I could live with. After all the other ingredients were Chicken Meat and Natural Juices, salt, cane sugar, natural flavor, dried onion, potato starch, dried garlic, turmeric and spice extractives. This is a pretty good list of ingredients (despite the starch and the two forms of sugar) considering the time savings. You know me, I am all about cost/ benefit.

I went to the store last weekend looking for more Better Than Bouillon when I saw that they were out of the organic variety. Rats. I checked out the ingredients of the non organic variety, still Chicken was the first ingredient, but there were a lot of iso- and -ates and -iums on the list. Why was it so different than the organic version?! I was kind of irritated. I didn't have a back up product. I looked at the Knorr bouillon cubes and saw what was in them. Shock rolled over me. The first ingredient was salt (no surprise, but I am irritated nonetheless) then the ingredients went south, palm oil, mono sodium glutamate, hydrolyzed corn protein, hydrogenated beef fat (Wait? Wasn't this CHICKEN stock? Why is beef the first animal ingredient?), hydrogenated soybean oil, sugar, cooked chicken meat (OH! There is the chicken. We are at ingredient number 8 in case you weren't counting), yeast extract, corn starch, chicken fat and the list goes really downhill from there. There are 23 ingredients altogether in Knorr's Chicken Bouillon Cubes. I will never buy that willingly again. If I ever buy Knorr bouillon cubes again you better believe that there will be some kind of story attached that includes snow, a house full of stranded out of town family and a couple of closed grocery stores.

I looked around, there weren't a lot of options. I took the container of the non organic Better Than Bouillon in my cart and walked around the grocery store deep in thought. Should I eat this? Did I have any other choice? I checked the organic section and didn't find any other bouillon cubes that contained animal flavors (they were all veggies) so I went back to where the conventional bouillons were. I looked again. At the very top I found a product labeled Demi-Glace. A good sign! I picked up the 16 ounce container-it was 26 dollars!! Holy Mackerel! I have no doubt that it was worth it, but we were having a party that afternoon and I already had 40 bucks worth of cheese in my cart. Not a good week to spend a ton of cash on meat paste. They did have smaller containers, of 1.5 ounces. They cost $4.29, yipes! My 4 ounce Better Than Bouillon cost me $4.49. However the More Than Gourmet Demi Glace has the best ingredient list out there, Chicken Stock, Roasted Chicken Stock, Mirepoix Stock (carrot, celery and onion), Dried Chicken Stock, Salt, Gelatin, Water and white wine. I did buy the 1.5 ounce container.

I used this product recently to make soup for the Things. It added alot of meaty flavor, but not as much salt as I am used to. I added alot more salt to my soup than I usually do which leads me to believe that the broths I have been using until now really are just all salt. But I also had a great idea. I should just make my own demi-glace. I have admitted that I don't have time to make stock every week. I really don't have the freezer space to store stock long term (I am not just making that one up). But when I looked online the recipe is a 25 hour marathon of french reduction cooking (Is anyone even going to look at that link now that I have said that?). So then I thought, perhaps I can simply make some homemade brown stock from roasted bones and veg, and boil it until it is super concentrated. I do have room to store that! In fact, I put in a meat order from the CSA this weekend and I included some beef bones. Hopefully mine will turn out well.

I will still probably buy the Better Than Bouillon organic variety the next time I see it because of the cost and time savings. I am educated enough to know that this makes up a super small amount of processed ingredients compared to the total. (We eat less than a tablespoon of this a week, and the processed ingredients are so minimal in the product itself.) However, when I make some concentrated brown stock, I'll let you know how it turns out. I really really wish that Better Than Bouillon would just eliminate the Maltodextrin and potato starch. Anyone know someone who works there?

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