My first memorable encounter with borscht was at a pot-luck party I had in San Francisco, in which my friend Elisabeth brought a huge, must have been 12 or 16-quart, pot of drop-dead delicious, deep purply red soup filled with beets.
Elisabeth's grandparents were Ukrainian, and I think borscht was one of her favorite soups to make.
Every time I make or eat borscht I think of my friend and the discovery of how good a soup made primarily of beets can be.
The wind is howling outside, if any leaves remain on the trees, they are sure to come down today. Here is a wonderfully satisfying beet borscht, perfect for a cold weather day.
What Is Borscht?
Borscht is a soup, usually made with beets, originating from Central and Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is especially popular in the cuisines of Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, and Ukraine.
Although the beet version is the most well known, it doesn't have to be made with beets. Borscht was a winter soup, often made with sour flavors and topped with a dollop of sour cream.
It was usually made by combining meat or bone stock with sautéed or boiled vegetables. Popular ingredients may include cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes and/or tomatoes. Sometimes it's puréed; sometimes it's not. Sometimes there's meat; sometimes there's not.
The name of the ancient tart soup is now more associated with the beet-red soup of today. If you want to recreate that traditional tartness, you can serve with lemon wedges on the side or add more vinegar, to taste.
How to Peel and Cut Beets
Dealing with beets can be a messy affair. Put on some food-safe gloves before tackling your root if you don't want to stain your hands, but the color will wash out in a few hours. With a sharp, sturdy knife, cut off and discard the stubby stems on top. Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, remove the peel like you would a potato or other root vegetable.
Then, place your beet on a cutting board, and cut in half. Place the flat sides down and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
Did your beets come with greens? You can cook them! Wash and stem them and add them to the soup in the final 5 minutes of cooking. Or try them in a recipe of their own.
Roast the Vegetables for Deeper Flavor
This recipe calls for roasting the root vegetables before simmering in the soup. Why? Because roasting converts some of the starch in your root vegetables into sugars, bringing out more of the sweetness. Also, a little char on the vegetables can add a bit of smokiness and an extra depth of flavor to your soup.
How to Store and Freeze Borscht
Borscht can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. If you plan on freezing it, portion it out into freezer-safe containers, leaving about an inch of headspace for expansion. Borscht will keep in the freezer for about 2 months. Just be sure to defrost it in the fridge at least a day before you plan to serve it again.
Bread Recipes to Serve with Borscht
More Soup Recipes for a Cold Day!
- Kale and Roasted Vegetable Soup
- French Onion Soup
- Minestrone Soup
- One-Pot Chicken and Rice Soup
- Baked Potato Soup
The soup is best made a day ahead, giving the flavors time to meld.
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil, divided
1 (1 1/4 pound) section bone-in beef shank with a lot of meat, or 1 pound beef stew meat, excess fat trimmed
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 cups beef broth or beef stock, divided
4 large beets (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and chopped
4 carrots (1 pound), peeled and chopped
1 large russet potato (6 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
3/4 cup chopped fresh dill, divided
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Brown the beef, then cook the onions:
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot on medium high heat. Add the shank slice or stew beef. Let the beef brown lightly on one side, then turn over.
Add the chopped onions to the pot. Let the onions cook and soften, about 5 minutes.
Add 4 cups broth and simmer until the beef is tender:
Pour 4 cups of the beef broth over the beef and onions in the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prep and roast the root vegetables:
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Peel and chop the beets, carrots, and potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss the beets and carrots with a teaspoon or two of olive oil and spread them out in a single layer on a foil lined roasting pan. Roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Toss the potatoes with olive oil and make room for them in the roasting pan, and roast everything an additional 15 minutes.
Remove the meat from the pot:
Once the beef has cooked through until tender, remove from the pot, and take the pot off the heat. If you are using a beef shank, remove and discard any bone, connective tissue, and excess fat. Chop the meat into bite sized pieces.
Skim the soup:
Skim off any excess fat from the liquid in the pot.
Finish cooking the soup:
Return the pot to the stove and add the remaining broth, the carrots, beets, and potato. Add the chopped meat to the pot, the sliced cabbage, and a half cup of the fresh dill. Bring to a simmer, and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the cabbage is cooked through.
Add the vinegar and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (I use about 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, but the amount you use will depend on how salty your beef broth is to begin with.)
The soup is best made a day ahead. (The longer the soup sits, the more it will all turn the deep red color of beets.)
Serve ladled into bowls with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh dill.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 12g||16%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||25%|
|Total Carbohydrate 26g||9%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||17%|
|Total Sugars 13g|
|Vitamin C 23mg||114%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|