Chicken of the woods bouillon powder is a miraculous wild foods pantry item. Just a tiny scoop can transform a cup of boiling water into a flavorful plant-based, or in this case mushroom-based, broth. It looks and tastes shockingly similar to high-quality chicken broth. I know because I happened to be making some chicken broth at the same time I was testing this recipe.
While testing, I tried out a few different flavor variations. Although I wanted to like the heavily-spiced versions, I found that traditional broth seasonings couldn't be beat. The onion and garlic powder helped complete the illusion that this was a real chicken broth, simmer on the stove for hours.
This bold, comforting flavor is thanks to the miracle of young chicken of the woods mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus). These distinctive orange and yellow fungi are bursting with umami and plenty of poultry-flavored molecules. Be mindful when harvesting because in my experience, these mushrooms lose their poultry flavor quickly as they age. If you want your broth to taste like actual chicken, it's best to use young specimens.
Especially with chicken of the woods, it's important to start with young, tender specimens. Older, dried out chicken of the woods tend to lack the mushroom's signature poultry flavor. It should go without saying, but if you use old, flavorless mushrooms, you will have old, flavorless bouillon powder.
Once you have your fresh mushrooms, slice them thinly. I aim for roughly ¼-inch thick slices, which I then cut into 1-inch lengths. I've found that these pieces, once dried, fit nicely into my tiny coffee grinder.
If you have a dehydrator, spread the slices out on the racks and dehydrate at about 115°F until they snap easily. If you don't have a dehydrator, you could try placing the mushrooms on a cookie sheet at your oven's lowest setting and flipping the pieces every 30 minutes. Full disclosure, I have not tried this method, but it was recommended to me by folks at the Asheville Mushroom Club.
Once your mushrooms are dry, store them in a jar with a tight lid. I like to tuck a silica packet in the jars to keep out moisture. I just reuse silica packets from things like seaweed snacks. The mushrooms should last for about a year or two.
I chose basic stock seasonings to give this powder a hint of familiarity - feel free to change them up or use wild flavors such as onion grass (Allium vineale) or bee balm (Monarda spp.).
A note on salt - don't be alarmed if you taste the broth and find it initially flavorless. I've found that adding ¼ teaspoon of salt per cup of water unlocks the chicken flavor. However, feel free to omit the salt it if you'd rather just season the final dish.
This recipe is inspired by Mallory O'Donnell's Bouillon of the Woods.
On using a food processor: If you don't have a spice or coffee grinder, you can try powdering your mushrooms in a food processor. I found this difficult; it took me about 12-15 minutes of pulsing to get them to a coarse grind (in contrast, my coffee grinder ground them to a fine powder in less than a minute). However, you may find that this method works for you. My only advice is to keep at it if they don't initially powder!
On flavorless broth: I've found that adding ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt per cup of broth does wonders for unlocking the chicken flavor of this powder. However, if you add salt and still find the broth lacking, think back to when you harvested your chicken of the woods. If you started with old, woody, or flavorless mushrooms the powder will reflect that. Next time, try using a younger specimen of chicken of the woods. They tend to have an uncanny chicken flavor that will make a delightful bouillon powder.
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