Mirepoix Vegetable Stock
Mirepoix vegetable stock, as the name suggests, starts with the traditional three mirepoix ingredients, onions, celery and carrots which gives a full rounded flavor and is perfect for a wide array of soups, sauces, sauteed greens, and all sorts of rice and grain dishes.
Homemade vegetable stock is easy to make and a great way of adding lots of flavor and more nutrients to your dishes. Vegetable stock can be used in place of water in most recipes. The recipe below is a guideline; specific vegetables and amounts can vary greatly. I tend to like more celery and fennel than carrot, but if your taste and or the dish you will be using the stock in needs a sweeter note, then by all means, add more carrots. It’s hard to go wrong, and the more you make vegetable stock the more you will find the balance of what you like and what works for the dishes you make.
The Vegetables for Mirepoix Vegetable Stock
Vegetable and herb stems, the ends, the tops of vegetable parts that may not be suitable for the dish itself are all good for stocks. Freshness of the vegetables you use is important. If the vegetables aren’t good enough to eat or use in your dishes than they won’t be good for stock either. The main vegetables for this style vegetable stock are the mirepoix classic trio of onions, celery, and carrots. Other aromatic vegetables that suit and enhance this flavor profile are leeks, garlic, and mushrooms. And there are lots of other vegetables that add flavor and depth. Fennel is as amazing addition. The first time I added fennel, I noticed a strong licorice-like scent it put in the house and thought the flavor of fennel would overwhelm the stock. Once the stock had simmered, the licorice taste mellowed and the fennel added more depth than without the fennel. Now, I almost always use fennel and find this style stock a little lacking of flavor without the fennel. Use the fennel stalks and the outer layer in the simmer and save the fronds (the spiky leafy parts) for the end to brighten flavor.
Vegetables to be Aware of and Vegetables to Avoid
Carrot peels can be too earthy tasting for stock, so I peel the carrots before adding. The outer papery peel of onion will add a dark golden color and may not be appropriate for the dish you make. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are not good additions to vegetable stock. These vegetables release sulfur compounds when cooked too long causing an unpleasant taste and emitting an unpleasant smell into the house that is hard to get rid of. That said, on occasion I add broccoli stalks (not the flower part) during the last 5 minutes only of simmering so they add nutrients, but don’t become sulfuric. The leaves on celery stalks should also be avoided as they add a bitter and somewhat unpleasant taste. But, celery leaves taste great raw and fun to eat them as you prepare the stock.
Spices and Herbs
Dried whole spices and dried herbs also enhance the flavor of vegetable stock. Whole black pepper kernels, fennel seeds, bay leaves all add good flavor. While cumin isn’t typically used in this style vegetable stock, a small amount of cumin will add depth and doesn’t have too strong of a cumin taste after it has simmered the full amount of time. Dried herbs like thyme and marjoram are lovely in vegetable stock along with a couple bay leaves. Fresh parsley stems, add a nice herbal touch too.
Making the Mirepoix Vegetable Stock
Vegetable preparation for stock is quick and easy. Stock can be as simple as rough cutting the vegetables, put them in the pot with the water, bring to a boil and simmer. This will give a nice stock. There are a few additional steps you can do that don’t add much time or effort. To extract more flavor you can either cut the vegetable pieces smaller and or give them a light bash with the back of a knife before throwing them in the stock pot with the water. Simmering time to extract full flavor is about 45 minutes with smaller vegetable cuts and up to 1 hour and 15 minutes with larger vegetable cuts. Longer simmering is not necessary and too long of simmering dulls out the flavor rather than deepening the flavor. Depending on your tap water, the water should be filtered or boiled so not to give an off taste. I like to boil the water so it is already hot and gives you a jump start on bringing the vegetables and water to a boil before simmering.
I find a good ratio of vegetables to water is about 1 to 1. If you are using 10 cups of vegetables, then about 12–14 cups of water will be right since some of the water will evaporate during the simmering. You can also just look at the pot, if it is filled about 1/3 with the vegetables, then fill the pot with water to a little above the half way point on the pot.
Get more Flavor
For a deeper flavor you can lightly caramelize the onions, garlic, fennel and carrots before adding the water and the rest of the vegetables. To caramelize, preheat the stock pot and put in the onion and garlic pieces until they become golden brown and fragrant, stirring as needed. Then add the water and the rest of the vegetables and spices. Just don’t allow to become dark brown or worse, black. If that happens, you will want to wash the pot of the burned bits and start over. Even a small amount of burned bits can ruin the taste of the stock. Once the simmering is done, turn off the burner and allow the stock to cool. To brighten the stock flavor and fill the house with a lovely herbal scent I like to add fresh herbs like parsley leaves and fennel fronds after the simmering is done and the stove is off. The mirepoix vegetable stock is now ready to use or prepare for storing.
Storing the Mirepoix Vegetable Stock
To store in the refrigerator or freezer, leave in the pot and allow to cool to near room temperature. This will take about 2 hours, then strain into a large bowl leaving the vegetables and sediment behind in the strainer. Write the the date on the storage containers while they are dry before adding the stock. The vegetable stock will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator store in glass or ceramic containers and 3–6 months in the freezer using freezer-safe containers.
Tools Used in this Recipe
- large cutting board
- chef or Santoku knife
- large stock pot and lid
- clothes pin
- storing containers