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There are some things that just have a bad reputation. It really does not seem to make any difference how much money is spent on advertising or marketing, whatever happens the bad reputation just seems to stick.
In the case of Bovril there are many of you out there who I am sure will sum it up with a four letter word - "YUCK!"
But wait don't go diving for that "Very Unhelpful" button quite yet or that "X" in the top right hand corner of the screen. Just give me a few minutes and allow me to put forward a positive case for the stuff.
The History Of Bovril
Originating from the 19th Century, Bovril was originally a beef extract. Nowadays the name Bovril is a registered trademark of a company called Bestfoods which is now part of the Unilever group of companies.
Today the name refers to a thick salty yeast extract sold in a distinctive bulbous jar.
The origins of the name itself comes from the Latin word Bo which derives from Bos of Bov referring to Cattle (Bovine) and in particular Ox. The word Vrine is taken from an 19th Century novel by Bulwer-Lytton called "The Coming Race" in which a subterranean humanoid race have mental control over, and devastating powers from, an energy fluid named "Vril."
In November 2004 the Manufacturer of Bovril decided to change the composition from Beef to a yeast extract. This was done for two reasons. Firstly to make the product suitable for vegetarians and secondly to allay fears of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).
Bovril has always been associated with the game of football and the product sponsors many clubs. The Rangers Football Club's Govan Stand became known as the Bovril Stand because of the large and distinctive advertisement displayed on its roof.
So What Does It Look Like?
Probably the most familiar form of this product is sold as a paste in a very distinctive round dark brown glass bulbous jar with a bright red plastic cap, and an oval red label on the front bearing the word "Bovril" in large white letters. Above the "I" in the word Bovril there is a curly wisp of steam. The reverse of the jar has a similar shaped label containing as you would expect the ingredients, nutritional information, directions on how to use the product and contact details for the manufacturer. These jars are available in three different sizes 125g, 250g and 500g.
It is also available in the form of a cube and has been available in this format since 1966, sold in a small square red cardboard box with a flip lid. Inside each box you will find a dozen small cubes each individually wrapped in shiny red foil with the name Bovril in white writing. On the back of the box you will find the directions on how to use, the ingredients and nutritional information. It also says that "Bovril stock cubes bring out the real flavour of your food". These cubes are very similar visually to Oxo cubes and they are a solid block in granular form.
How To Use It?
To use as a drink Bovril could not be more simple. Take one or two teaspoonfuls of the semi liquid paste and place into a mug, then just add freshly boiled water to fill the mug. If using the granular form just crumble one cube between your finger and thumb into a mug and add boiling water in the same way. Give it a good stir, allow to cool a little and hey presto its ready to drink. I tend to use the liquid form but from memory the taste either way is pretty much the same. Some people add pepper or a little cayenne to enhance the flavour or even grated cheese but I prefer to drink it plain. Bovril can be used in cooking in a similar way to stock cubes to enhance the flavour of pies, casseroles, soups and stews. It can even be added to porridge but I don't know anyone who has been brave enough to experiment with this.
The third use which only applies to the liquid form is to spread it on bread or toast. I remember Bovril on toast as a kid and I still sometimes use this way now.
What Does It Taste Like?
The first thing you will notice is the smell. The aroma is very inviting, it is not a sweet smell, but instead it is a strong savoury smell like gravy but much stronger, it gets up your nostrils and just makes you want to taste it.
The taste is quite bitter and very salty. It is a strong taste which can obviously be influenced by the amount of Bovril you add to your mug or the level of water that you fill your mug up to. It has a very distinctive savoury beef taste which you will either love or hate.
Interestingly, when Unilever decided to change the composition of Bovril last year their research using blindfolded volunteers found that 50% could not tell the two varieties apart and of those that could 50% preferred the new taste.
Is It Value For Money?
The price varies depending on whether you buy the paste or the cubes but the cubes offer the best value for money, if you are able to find them in your local supermarket. Unfortunately my local supermarket only sells the liquid form so it is this that I tend to buy.
In the Asda a box of 12 cubes (71g) will cost you just 46p, which is less than 4 pence a cube and surely that must make Bovril one of the cheapest hot drinks around.
A 125g Jar of Paste costs £1.37 and a 250g jar costs £2.56. The larger 500g jar is not sold at Asda so I am not sure on the cost of these but this bulk size if you are able to find it will offer better value for money.
I would recommend Bovril particularly as a cheap hot drink to warm you up on a cold winters night. If you haven't tried it before give it a try, you never know you might be surprised. And remember THIS PRODUCT IS NOW SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS!