The Beet Goes On and On

W has asked for a good Borscht recipe after reading my Beet post, so I’m posting the recipe Alison and I use, although we rarely make it just as written — in fact I don’t think we’ve ever made and used the kvas as a flavoring instead of lemon juice, but I’m intrigued and we may try this soon. We’ll let you know how it goes.

In fact, we often don’t use the beef broth either, substituting another quart of water to make a mostly vegetarian soup (if you don’t account for the bacon). We also don’t purée the vegetables, and leave everything chopped and chunky. We will serve it with whole milk yogurt, not sour cream, which keeps the calories down, but gives the same creamy kick. We rarely bother with the fresh dill, however, though.

Alison often makes a gallon or so of borscht at a time, freezes some, and keeps the rest on hand for lunches and a few dinners that week. This is a perfect soup for our garden, where we grow all of these vegetables, and if they’re not available fresh, we have them in storage in the root cellar.

Enjoy! and let us know what you think (and how you adjust it) if you try this your self.

–ER 1.23.2006

(UPDATE: The recipe below is transcribed directly from The Victory Garden Cookbook, although we use this only as guidance, and probably make ours a little different every time. Marc has tested it for himself and posted his own re-write of this recipe as a comment that may make more sense to a first-timer. )

–Eric

Beet Borscht

From The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash

In Eastern Europe, where borscht is king, you could eat a different borscht every week of the year, and each would be authentic. Although borscht is thought of as a beet dish, the workd means any soup made with a variety of vegetables

My version is easy to fix, yet retains the qualities found in a more time-consuming preparation. I flaver with kvas, a traditional fermented beet liquid, but it’s not necessary; substitute lemon juice if you wish. Notice that the vegetables are simmered to preserve the red color of the beets; boiling turns them sienna brown. Borscht ages well; in fact, my family prefers it the next day or even later in the week. Served with sour cream, black bread, and sweet butter, you’ll have a hearty and satisfying meal.

2 thick slices of bacon
1 large onion
2 stalks celery
1 large beet
2 cloves garlic
2 cups fresh tomato pulp or canned plum tomatoes
1 cup peeled and chopped potatoes
1 quart beef stock
1 quart water
3 peppercorns
6 sprigs parsley
1 tsp. salt
2 cups julienned or coarsely grated beets
1 cup julienned or coarsely grated carrots
4 Tbsp butter
3 cups shredded cabbage
Freshly ground pepper
Kvas (see recipe below) or fresh lemon juice
Fresh dill (optional)
Sour cream

Chop bacon, blanch for 5 minutes in boiling water, drain, and dry thoroughly. Lightly brown bacon in a frying pan. Remove bacon and reserve the fat. Chop onion and celery and sauté in bacon fat until barely wilted and lightly colored. Wash and grate beet, and halve garlic.

Place the bacon, onion, celery, beet, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, stock, water, peppercorns, parsley, and salt into a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove vegetables and put through the finest disk of a food mill, sieve, discarding pulp and seeds. Add the purée to the broth.

Sauté julienned beets and carrots in 2 tablespoons butter for 5 minutes. Add to the soup base and simmer for 15 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, braise cabbage in remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large frying pan, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until wilted and slightly colored. Add to soup and simmer 15 minutes longer. Taste for seasoning, add pepper and salt if necessary; add sufficient kvas or lemon juice to give a slightly tart, but not sour, taste. Just before serving, heat to boiling and add dill if you like. Dish up with a spoonful of sour cream on each serving. (The dill can also be assed as a garnish). Makes 2 quarts.

For a heartier meal, simmer 1 pound brisket, 1 pound meaty shinbone, and 1 teaspoon salt in 2 quarts of water or combination of water and beef stock for 1 hour. Then simmer vegetables in this meat stock for 45 minutes, as above. When straining, reserver meat to add to finished soup.

Kvas
8-10 beets, peeled
1/2 cup milk
2 slices bread (preferably rye or whole wheat)

Chop beets, place in a crock or glass container, cover with lukewarm water, add milk, and top with bread. Cover and keep in a warm place until fermented. It will take anywhere from 24 hours to 3 days to ferment, although you can speed up the fermentation by placing the crock near the pilot light on a stove.

Strain and store in a glass container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Kvas will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two.

Kvas can be used to flavor and color other dishes as well, as a substitute for lemon juice.

4 thoughts on “The Beet Goes On and On

  1. Ah…memories of Borscht. I had it the first time at a little cafe near where Kelly and I took Alexi and Masha to get their passport pictures taken. We were somewhere in the government district of Rostov-on-Don, a small town on the Volga near the Black Sea. It was November and it was very cold. The process required that we LEAVE the kids in a little room in a dingy government office, and go away for a while. Interesting. We decided to go get something to eat. There were vendors on the street selling milk from giant vats, and a butcher selling dead chickens piled in the gutter. We found a small cafe not unlike the Soup Nazi’s place on Seinfeld. Waiting in line, we followed the person’s lead in front of us and ordered what they did. It was a bowl of watery borscht, deep purple with a few beet chunks wandering around in the bowl. A chunk of peasant’s bread, and we were ready to go. We sat down at a small metal table with a few Russians dressed like they just came from the set of Dr. Zviago (the late part of the movie, when everyone was struggling to survive). The soup was terrific; the bread better (as I remember). We will try your recipe E and see if it measures up to the Russian version from 1993.

    Like

  2. Beet Borscht
    From The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash

    I cooked this Sunday evening [2.26.06], as written, pureeing the initial batch of vegetables through a food mill. The result was quite wonderful, creamy and unctuous, with just the right tangy, beety taste. Can’t wait to see how it is “the next day.”

    The preparation, however, was not without difficulty. I found the recipe, as written, confusing and obtuse and had to re-read it over and over to discover what to do. [I don’t know if Eric transcribed it or scanned it, or what.] In some cases, the recipe list says what to do with the vegetables [1 cup peeled and chopped potatoes] in other cases, what to do is in the instructions [chop onion and celery and sauté…]. The instructions are unclear as to what pans or pots you are using, and when.

    I’m a staunch advocate of mise-en-place, prepping and lining up ingredients in the order they’ll be used. So it’s helpful if the ingredients are listed in groups. Almost no cookbooks do this, probably a space issue, so I draw lines to group them.
    In any case, I re-wrote this recipe so that I understand it [my cooking comments in brackets], and maybe it’ll help you if you cook it – and you should, it’s delicious./m

    2 thick slices of bacon

    1 large onion, chopped
    2 stalks celery, chopped

    1 large beet, grated
    2 cloves garlic, halved
    2 cups fresh tomato pulp or canned plum tomatoes
    1 cup peeled and chopped potatoes
    1 quart beef stock
    1 quart water
    3 peppercorns
    6 sprigs parsley
    1 tsp. Salt

    2 cups julienned or coarsely grated beets [about 4 regular size]
    1 cup julienned or coarsely grated carrots
    4 Tbsp butter combined

    3 cups shredded cabbage [half a small head]

    Freshly ground pepper
    Kvas (see recipe below) or fresh lemon juice
    Fresh dill (optional)
    Sour cream

    Chop bacon, blanch for 5 minutes in boiling water, drain, and dry thoroughly. Lightly brown bacon in a dutch oven or heavy soup pot. [I used my 5Q cast iron pot] Remove bacon, leaving the fat.

    Add onion and celery and sauté in the bacon fat until barely wilted and lightly colored.

    Add the bacon, beet, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, stock, water, peppercorns, parsley, and salt to the soup pot. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove vegetables and put through the finest disk of a food mill, sieve, discarding pulp and seeds. Add the purée to the broth.

    In a large sauté pan [I used 10” should have used 12”], sauté julienned beets and carrots in 2 tablespoons butter for 5 minutes. Add to the soup base and simmer for 15 minutes.

    While the vegetables are cooking, braise cabbage in remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the same pan, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until wilted and slightly colored. Add to soup and simmer 15 minutes longer.

    Taste for seasoning, add pepper and salt if necessary; add sufficient kvas or lemon juice to give a slightly tart, but not sour, taste. Just before serving, heat to boiling and add dill if you like. Dish up with a spoonful of sour cream on each serving. (The dill can also be passed as a garnish). Makes 2 quarts.

    Like

  3. Marc doesn’t specify one of the most confusing aspects of this recipe — you use RAW beets, not previously cooked beets. Otherwise his recipe is easier to follow…

    Like

  4. I had the Borscht for lunch today, after it had rested for two days. Really good. As I was eating, I was thinking about chunky-and-brothy style soup versus the smooth-and-thick style. I’m generally a chunky-and-brothy guy… not a big fan of pureed soup (except maybe cold soups). But then there’s this Borscht. It’s smooth and thick, but also has chunks. Perfect for this soup. Of course it comes from running some of the vegetables – the flavoring vegetables – through a food mill and then adding the headliner vegetables and cooking them in the already thick soup as chunks. Elementary, you might say; and I might say, “Yeah, but I had to learn that.”

    I learned it, for sure, cooking ROASTED PEPPER & TOMATO FISH-SCALLOP STEW, a recipe gleaned from the SF Examiner in 1997. The first time I cooked it in January 1998, the instruction said, In batches, puree bell peppers, tomatoes, onion and garlic with the clam juice until smooth. Strain through a fine wire sieve. My notation in the recipe was: [I didn’t think that was necessary] . And at the end of the recipe, I noted: [This was good enuf to record… fresh peppers, tomatoes and homemade fish stock would be nice, too. Again, more like a soup than a stew. Reheats nicely.]

    When I cooked it again in December 2001, I followed the instructions: In batches, puree bell peppers, tomatoes, onion and garlic with the clam juice until smooth. Strain through a fine wire sieve; and made the additional notation: (Very necessary… makes a sauce, rather than finely chopped vegetables suspended in liquid) . At the end of the recipe, I further noted: (The 2001 version is indeed a stew, since I did it right… and really good!)
    By the way, this is a really good soup/stew. The recipe is at http://eatsforone.com/

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.