Soups in general and borscht specifically is not my favorite thing to eat. I grew up eating my fair share of it, but never really viewed it as OH SO GOOD. But it is, don’t get me wrong. It’s a quintessential Russian (depends on who you ask, of course) soup. Done the right way, it is one of the most satisfying winter dishes on earth. The first time I’ve tried making it on my own, it tasted too much like the vegetables, and my husband thought it was not so tasty (to which I replied “well, you try making it then”). But, I figured the trick to making it taste SO MUCH BETTER is to of course, sauté the vegetables first, in butter for even more flavor, and adding something like garlic, parsley or whatever other spice you like. The vegetables, while still retaining their authentic flavor, will also take on the flavor of whatever you add to them, and the combination is just divine.
Another important step in making delicious borscht is making the broth at home. I try to make my broths at home no matter what I cook, but I fail to make enough of it to save it for next time. That’s my goal for near future, make and can my home-made broth. To make a satisfying flavorful broth, you need to get meat that has some fat on it. Or get a combination of a good chunk of meat and some meat bones with the marrow still in it. The smell of your kitchen while the broth is cooking will be very homey.
Note: You can make this dish strictly vegetarian, which I’ve never tried, but it is an option. Just make vegetable stock and use it instead of the beef one.
Ready? Here we go.
You want to make the broth first, since it takes the longest. Now, if I was a hands on–perfect-Martha Steward like- cook, I would make tons of this and just store it, but alas, I don’t. So I am reduced to running home, loading it all up and then going about my duties. This is how you make the broth:
Place all the meat in a pot, cover with water, toss in bay leaves, onion, add salt and bring to boil on medium-high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium, and let boil for an hour and a half, or until you feel the meat becoming tender. VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT FORGET TO CLEAR THE SCUM THAT COMES UP. In Russian we call it “Penka”, and sometimes I forget to clear it. But it’s very important to do so, because otherwise it mixes in with the broth and changes the texture of it…plus it makes it look ugly. So don’t forget to do that.
Meanwhile, cut up and shred/grate all the vegetables. I don’t use a lot, just the basics. Some people tend to get fancier and use some other root vegetables. I don’t. I like it simple. Grate all the carrots and beets and set aside. Roughly chop up the cabbage, by simply taking the biggest knife you have and cut along the half of the cabbage head. You can really cut it up in any way, it all turns mushy in the broth anyways. Slice the onion and add to the cabbage/beet mixture. Heat up 2 tbs of butter or oil, or a combination of both in a pan. Add the grated carrots, beets, sliced onion and crushed garlic and sauté until everything becomes soft. You can add salt as well at this point.
Assembly of the Borscht:
Once the broth is done, drain it and remove the meat. Toss the onions/bay leaves, you don’t need them anymore. Once the meat has cooled, either slice it, or tear it with your fingers (which is what I did, just pull it apart and if it’s cooked enough, it will be easy to do so). Add the meat slices to now clean-of-everything broth and turn the heat on low, so it keeps warm.
Once the vegetables have sautéed to your liking, add them to the warm broth and mix. Add the chopped up cabbage and the potato wedges. Turn the heat to medium and let it boil for 30 minutes or so, or until the potatoes are soft (you can check this by literally sticking a fork in them to see if they are done!).
At this point, the Borscht is done as well. Serve with a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!
Borscht with Homemade Beef Broth
For the broth:
1 pound of beef bones (oxtail works great)
1 pound of Beef Shank
Enough water to fill a medium size pot (I didn’t measure how much, I just filled it all the way up)
1 tbs salt
4 bay leaves
1 medium onion – cut in 4 pieces
For the soup:
3 organic beets
Half a Savoy cabbage (or less)
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Butter/sunflower oil for sautéing the vegetables.
2 smaller potatoes – cut up
1) Combine all the ingredients in a medium sized pot bring to boil, while remembering to clear the scum while it’s boiling. Reduce the heat and boil for additional 1.5-2 hours or until meat is tender.
2) Grate the carrots/beets, slice the onion, and crush the garlic.
3) Sauté the mentioned above vegetables in butter/oil until everything is soft and well combined. Add salt, pepper, spices, if desired.
4) Chop up the cabbage and set aside.
5) Drain he broth, remove and tear up or cut up the meat into chewable sized pieces.
6) Add the sautéed vegetables, cut up potatoes and cabbage to the broth and boil on medium-low heat for 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft
7) Serve Borscht with a dollop of sour cream.
NOTE(s): 1) don’t forget to clean the scum off the broth 2) depending on how “thick” you like your soups, you can add more/less of the cabbage, it tends to shrink.