Americans like to borrow foreign words. We use "pediatrician" instead of saying "children's doctor" or "mirepoix" instead of "recipe starters". The Germans are more down-to-earth. Their mirepoix is called "Suppengrün" (soup greens). It is usually purchased in a bundle and consists of a leek, a carrot and a piece of celery. It may also contain parsley, thyme, celery leaves, rutabaga, parsley root, and onions. The mix depends on the region you live, and the recipe. The vegetables are cold climate roots and bulbs with long shelf lives, good reasons for being chosen for the German kitchen. German "Suppengrün" act as herbs and impart hearty, strong flavors to the soup or sauce, which makes them perfect foils for other strong tasting ingredients such as dried peas and beans or pot roast.
In larger chunks, the vegetables are slowly boiled and then discarded to make flavorful soups and stock. Chopped small, they can be browned in fat and used as a basis for the finished sauce. If they cook long enough, they fall apart and become part of the sauce or can be pureed to form the sauce. The parsley, thyme, and marjoram are used whole and removed before serving. This recipe for Fuhrmannsbraten, a braised beef roast, uses "Suppengrün" as the basis for the sauce. You may also want to sieve your cooking fond before finishing the sauce. At that point, the vegetables have given up most of their flavor and are discarded.
Of course, you don't have to buy "Suppengruen" in a bundle, but if you don't use these vegetables often, it cuts down on waste, since you only need about 6 ounces of chopped vegetables per recipe. It also increases the store's profits, a bundle of soup greens costs about $2, more if they are organic. I like to buy my vegetables separately because I want to use most of the green part of the leek and the celeriac is fresher. As a matter of fact, the best time to buy soup greens is fall through spring, since these are winter-harvested vegetables. At other times, you may resort to frozen "mirepoix" mixes.
When you are chopping your soup greens or pot-herbs as they are also called, make sure they are well cleaned and all rot and dried parts cut away. Leeks, especially, must be cleaned under running water to remove all the sand they collect while growing.
Mirepoix is a French term named after the man who invented it and is the same thing as minced "Suppengrün". In the US, the freezer section also now carries mirepoix vegetables, often called "Recipe Starters" which uses a mix of Pascal celery (the straight kind we are used to), onions and carrots.
If you make your own mirepoix, the traditional French ratios are 2 parts onion: 1 part celery: 1 part carrot.
Uses for Pot-Herbs - "Suppengrün" - Soup Greens
There are so many uses for Pot-Herbs in the German kitchen. A few examples and their special additions are listed here.
- Hearty Soups and Stews
- Pea soup (plus onion, marjoram, salt and pepper)
- Lentil soup (plus onion, thyme, bacon and vinegar)
- Potato soup (plus onion, bay leaf, bacon)
- Clear beef stock (plus bay leaf, pepper and onion. Discard vegetables after cooking.)
- Clear chicken stock (plus white pepper, freshly ground nutmeg and onion. Discard vegetables after cooking.)
- Sauces made with braised meats.
- Marinades for Sauerbraten
- Marinades for venison (plus juniper berries, whole allspice, peppercorns and red wine)
- Mussels (no carrot, plus onion, white pepper, and white wine)