Porcini Bouillon Cubes (Umami Bombs)



I mentioned previously that porcini mushrooms have overtaken meat as my favorite soup base.  I'm in awe of the way so few dried mushrooms can yield such an astonishing amount of savoriness when re-hydrated.  I was fortunate enough to forage many porcini mushrooms (Boletus spp.) over the summer, and I am able to take advantage of that flavor at every turn.  Porcini broth is now the backbone of nearly every soup I make.  It also shows up in my risottos, sauces, and gravies.


Dried porcini create a delightful broth all by themselves.  Many chefs call the soaking water from re-hydrated porcini mushrooms liquid gold.  However, with just a few tweaks and additions, basic porcini broth can be pumped up and transformed it into something so tasty that it seems some sort of magic is involved.  Through many months of tinkering, I've come up with a recipe for subtly enhancing the rich qualities of basic liquid porcici gold that is so scrumptious that I'd be proud to serve it to anyone. You can read about it in this post about porcini ramen.

My porcini soup base is so utterly delicious that I decided that I wanted to try to convert it into an instant, portable version.  A few months back, my foraging buddy Pascal introduced me to his method for making dried soup cubes from nettle and potato.  A light bulb went off.  It should be a piece of cake to make similar dried cubes, bouillon, from mushrooms.  Certainly it would be easier than trying to engineer a meat-based bouillon cube at home.

Porcini bouillon cubes turned out to be shockingly easy to make.  They require only a few ingredients, and very few tools to create something ten times tastier than anything you could buy at a store.

Porcini bouillon cubes make a soup that is good enough to stand on its own.  At times when I only need a light snack, I brew up a small cup of soup to sip using my porcini bouillon cubes.  These cubes can also be used to add a quick boost of savory flavor to pretty much any soup or sauce.  I've taken to calling them umami bombs.  Because they are dehydrated and lightweight, porcini bouillon cubes are a perfect food to take along on camping trips, hikes, and other outdoor adventures.  They also make a nice hot lunch for office stiffs who only have access to hot water while at work.

In honor of my friend Erica, who sometimes goes by her foraging superpower name, Wild Food Girl, I started making up packages of "instant" soup.  She works a hectic day job, and often doesn't have time to put into cooking elaborate meals. All I do is vacuum seal three porcini bouillon cubes (for two cups of water), a nest of thin dried noodles, and a handful of dehydrated vegetables (I use dried nettle, wild onion greens, and milkweed pod slices, but any dried veg will do) into a bag, and write instructions on the outside. Voila, a portable little package that can be turned into a meal in minutes.

Who needs Cup O' Noodles?!

Porcini Bouillon Cubes (aka Umami Bombs)


2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
2 1/2 Tbsp. dried wild onion powder (substitute onion powder)
2 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. powdered gelatin
1 tsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
+/- 2 Tbsp. water

1. Use a spice grinder (you could also use a mortar and pestle, but in this case, I prefer the efficiency of a spice grinder) to buzz your dried porcini mushrooms into a fine powder.  You will probably need to do this in batches.  Sift each batch through a fine sieve and into a bowl.  Return the larger pieces which haven't passed through the sieve to the grinder, until all of your mushrooms are ground.

2.  Add the dried ground wild onion, salt, and gelatin to the bowl with the mushroom powder, and fully incorporate the ingredients by stirring.  The gelatin will help the porcini bouillon dough stick together when it is wet, and will give the reconstituted soup a silky sensation in your mouth.  If you don't have wild onion, I strongly recommend using your own homemade dried onions.  My mom used to dice onions, lay them on a baking sheet, and stick them into the oven after she'd baked anything and turned off the oven.  The residual heat dries them out easily, gives them a light toasting, and fills your house with a lovely aroma.  Commercial onion powder just can't compare to all of that toasty complexity (but will do in a pinch in this recipe).

3.  Measure the fish sauce and soy sauce into the dry ingredients, and this time use a fork to start to smush everything together.

4.  Add approximately 2 Tbsp. of water, and continue to mix everything together with a fork.  The idea here is to use just enough water to get the ingredients to pull together.  This will make dehydrating the porcini bouillon cubes much faster.  The raw material should have the consistency of a very stiff dough, like Play-Dough, or corn tortilla dough.

5.  When it looks as if all of the ingredients have finally come together,  knead the ball of porcini dough between your hands for a few seconds just to make certain that it is evenly moist and sticky.

6.  Several years ago, I bought a mold for Jell-O jiggler jelly beans at the thrift store.  I thought it would be good for making all sorts of pastilles and such.  I dug out that mold for the bouillon cubes, but it seemed like the porcini bouillon stuck to the mold just a bit too much, and I didn't want to use any grease or water to keep them from sticking.  Here's what I ended up doing instead.  I used my hands to pat the dough into something square-like, then tapped each of the four flat edges on a cutting board to make the square square-er.  I then used a rolling pin to very gently roll the porcini bouillon dough to 1/2", carefully lifted it with a spatula, and once again tapped the edges on the cutting board to make a respectable square.  Then, I used a knife warmed under hot water and towel-dried to cut the dough into 1/2" cubes.  This recipe makes approximately 40 cubes.

7.  Dry the porcini bouillon cubes in a dehydrator (or an oven or strong sunlight) for at least 8-10 hours at 125 degree (F), or until you are darned certain that they are completely dried (this may take many more hours in humid climates).  You will cry your eyes out if these little stinkers go moldy in storage, so go the extra mile to make sure the cubes are dried through and through.  Store porcini bouillon cubes in a cool dry place, out of direct sunlight.

8.  To make porcini bouillon, pour 6 oz. boiling water over a cube, and let it soften and brew for at least 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You may need to smash the cube with the back of a spoon as it rehydrates.  The porcini bouillon cube will never dissolve completely, instead it will make a cloudy broth with debris that settles at the bottom.

You can also see this recipe appearing on Punk Domestics (ye-ah!) and Real Food Wednesday, and Dehydrator Recipes Thursdays.   Share the love.
Porcini Bouillon Cubes on Punk Domestics

Comments

  1. Hang on, you made bouillon cubes... from mushrooms you found... you are so out of my league! And where did you get that picture? Wow!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These were incredibly easy to make, didn't use as many dried mushrooms as you might fear (whether you are collecting them or purchasing them), and are super delishtastic and handy to have around. Wins all around.

      Wait, get the picture? I photographed the porcini bouillon cubes myself.

      Delete
  2. That is just killer, instant soup packages from Porcino mushrooms.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is genius. And what a photo!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I want to make these right now. CAn I use other kinds of dryed mushrooms?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure. Porcini are known as kings because they are so flavorful, but other dried mushrooms would certainly work, especially since there are other savory ingredients used here. What kind of dried mushrooms were you thinking of using?

      Delete
  5. I read a lot of food magazine and books and blogs, and I've got to say that this is one of the most mind-blowing recipes I've seen all year.

    Thanks for this!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Just when I think that if I see one more crappy blog advertising one more crappy recipe in my feed, I'm gonna lose it, you come along and save the day. Thank you for sticking to posting good things. It's nice to follow someone who actually has something interesting to say.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait, what? You don't want to see my recipe for "my take" on sugar-free egg-free gluten-free taste-free snacks that look remarkably like dog food? Too bad, that one was next up. Now what do I post!?!

      Delete
  7. I can use purchased porcini, right? What does 2 oz. look like, volume-wise?

    I think I'm going to have mushroom soup fantasies until I'm able to make these.

    And instant soup? Just like college, only better?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup, store-bought dried porcini will work just fine. Two ounces looked like about three big handfuls-ish.

      Delete
  8. I just don't know how your head gets to these places, but I like it! Thanks for the great recipe and constant inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've been harvesting Boletes since the 50's. I dry most of them, and make soup. And never, not even once, did it occur to me to make bollion cubes from them. I'm so jealous that I didn't think of this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Annie, my friend, you really should put some of your collection to making these, especially as much as you like camping. They hardly take up any space/weight in your pack.

      Delete
  10. Replies
    1. No, not really. They hold together very well while they are dehydrated.

      Delete
  11. I want some of those instant soup packets!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Give it a shot and try to make some. This recipe makes a few dozen porcini bouillon cubes, that's a lot of instant soup.

      Delete
  12. Haha, too funny. I can't really imagine you making Jello jiggler jelly beans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, they're not really my bag. But the flipping mold looked so cool, with all of those perfect little holes. I fear the plastic isn't the kind meant to hold up to the heat of my horehound candies and such, so I've yet to find a use for it.

      Delete
  13. Umami bombs, clever clever. But between the soy, the fish sauce, the onion, and the mushrooms, that is indeed an umami jackpot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It will make-a yo mouth happy, TodO.

      Delete
  14. Wow, that looks like a magazine photo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Playmate of the month? Hot and sassy for all the fungi(s).

      Delete
  15. My grandmother has always told me stories of picking mushrooms in the old country. I know they went to great lengths to preserve them. I think she would really admire your dedication to the foods that grow wild, and creating really fantastic things with them. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Visiting from Punk Domestics. Awesome recipe, awesome site!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Also coming through Punk Domestics. It is so fascinating to see the different fruiting patterns, that you picked porcini over the summer, and some people are picking them right now. Either way, it is an event not to be missed.

    Look forward to reading more here in the future. Great recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think I've got some gourmet camping trips in my future, LOL!!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Is there any substitute for the fish sauce and gelatin? I'm mostly vegan and lots of vegan dishes could use the "unami bomb" to detonate the flavor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agar agar would work. But you could also just eliminate that ingredient altogether. I like the way the gelatin helps the cubes to bind together, and it give the finished broth a more unctuous feeling, but it isn't altogether necessary. I made the early test batches without it.

      As far as fish sauce goes, I know that vegetarian versions exist, or you could just use more soy sauce in its place. But I'd be tempted to try seaweed in its place.

      Delete
  20. Now I just need to learn to forage for mushrooms, LMAO. If you feel someone following you around when you are mushroom hunting next year, its just me. JK ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should know that if I feel someone following me when I'm mushroom hunting, I have a very itchy trigger finger on my bear spray and hori hori.

      JK.

      Delete
  21. This is absolutely brilliant! I've been wanting to make my own versions of cup'a'soup for quite some time now (I have celiac, amongst other pain in the rear allergies... as well as being a food dork who wants things that taste of more then salt) and this is JUST what I wanted to learn, at just the perfect time. I'm making a big mushroom run tomorrow (a local store has a sale on) and was already planning on dry at least 6 trays worth - with this recipe, I think I might just double the plan. Especially as it turns out I can use other mushrooms. One of my big projects for 2013 is to start making my own grab & go convenience items to keep on the pantry shelves - this sounds like the perfect start to my own home 7-11! Thanks so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you can tolerate them, mushrooms are big bang for the buck. And if you are wanting to do an instant noodle soup, bean thread noodles and the like rehydrate so quickly and easily. Good luck with 2013, having some convenience food will keep things sane (I speak from experience).

      Delete
    2. Thankfully, while the list of "nope, never again, sucks to be you" items is longer then I would even want to inflict on an enemy, mushrooms are still on the safe side of things. So much so that one of the highlights of my upcoming weekend is being able to finally bring home and start 4 mushroom logs in my basement at long last! (In addition to the homemade 7-11 building, my spousal unit and myself are going to try and see how much we can grow - and then preserve - in our tiny city lot. Putting in the mushrooms & starting herbs now, building a hydroponic system as well, and in the spring ripping up the tiny lawn and putting in an edible version). I'm going to try both the bean threads and sweet potato starch noodles in the cup'o'soups, along with various dried veggies. This really opens up a whole world of flavor combos that I'm nerdily excited to take a swing at. I also have a feeling I'm going to be spending a good chunk of time reading all your back posts! One last thing (long ramble, sorry) - I think it might be worth adding some powdered Reishi mushrooms to the mix and turning this into a medicine cabinet staple for cold & flu season. Between the savory mushrooms richness, the immune system boosting Reishi, hot broth, the salty soy, and the gelatin to sooth a sore throat, this sounds like the perfect thing to keep ready to pour into a person headed for a flu induced snooze.

      Delete
    3. What kind of mushrooms are you growing? I tried doing oysters inside once, but the lack of humidity here makes it too fussy.

      Excellent through re: reishi!

      Delete
  22. What a spectacular idea. I am going to try this with locally grown shiitakes and see what happens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sincerely interested in knowing your results. Please let me know how it works out for you!

      Delete
  23. This blows my stinking mind. You have blown my mind.

    Awesome recipe, awesome pic. This is what it looks like when food blogs get it right. I'm inspired, I want to make it, I want to read more!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Allen. That means a lot to me.

      Delete
  24. I don't like mushrooms, what should I do? I mean, I sometimes eat fish and chicken, but mostly i"m a vegan. I don't want animal to suffer, except sometimes I get really hungry for a chicken sandwich. Someday I'm gonna make things like this, but without mushrooms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear one, learn to edit, your thoughts, your speech. Edit.

      Delete
  25. Yowza! Snappy sense of humor. I'm in love.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Awesome! I can't wait to try making these.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Genius post! I'm blown away. Ready to make a double batch.

    ReplyDelete
  28. You did what with the what? Wow, you go!

    I'm new here, but will come back. What a great site you have created. And dang, i read a couple of other posts, the more writerly ones, and you can bring it there, too. Impressive, keep it up.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Visiting through Punk Domestics. Now I'm wondering how I've never visited your blog before, so much to see. Great (and innovative) recipes, awesome photos, and wow, seriously, you can write (mas!).

    ReplyDelete
  30. Bravo, this is a stroke of genius. All of the sudden, I can't stop thinking about making my own mushroom bouillon cubes, even though I've never foraged a single mushroom in my life. That is power my friend. You have the magic.

    -O

    ReplyDelete
  31. Annie K (very domestic)December 13, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    I've mulled over the idea of making soup cubes from powdered vegetables before, but it never crossed my mind to use mushrooms. Brilliant!

    ReplyDelete
  32. For a mushroom hunter, this is a game-changer. To have porcini broth at your fingertips, even when traveling, such a good idea. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I thought I was bloody clever making my jar of veggie bouillon, but this blows the roof off! Of course, since I don't have much call for requiring dry storage, I'll probably just make a jarred version of this for the fridge and possibly combine it with my veggie boullion for a mega flavour bomb!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It never occurred to me to leave it wet. Good idea. I was just so determined to make adorable little cubes.

      Delete
  34. I don't buy pre-made bullion cubes (food allergies), so I was really excited to read this post. Unfortunately, I can't eat soy. Any suggestions for a replacement? Thanks,

    ReplyDelete
  35. I can't even begin to imagine picking my own mushrooms, but I sure can buy them and make this recipe. Thank you for sharing this.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Porcini bouillon cubes. Keep inventing these recipes, and I'll keep reading forever.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts