My mom was not Ukrainian, but when she married my dad, she learned how to make many of the traditional Ukrainian dishes. Over the years, she perfected her borscht and her borscht recipe is not only delicious, but brings back great memories of when she was still with us.
My Mom’s Borscht Recipe:
ham soup bone (pork or beef bone will work as well)
1/2 head of cabbage (You can use drained sauerkraut in lieu of cabbage, but I never do)
2-3 cups chopped onion
2 large grated carrots
1 diced potato
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes (largest size)
1 can of white beans (or soaked dry beans)
3-5 cups of diced beets (I probably use close to 5 cups in mine)
2-3 bay leaves
fresh parsley (dry is fine)
2 cloves minced garlic
fresh dill (I don’t measure, but I am guessing a few tablespoons at least)
pepper and salt
1 cup of sour cream (plus extra for serving)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Make a very simple homemade stock by filling a large pot with water and the soup bones. You can add bay leaves and salt and pepper to the stock if you wish, but I generally just boil the bones and add the extra flavours to the borscht. Bring to a boil and continue to simmer or cook on low so that the stock is just at the boiling point. I usually leave mine on the stove for several hours and usually do this the day before. Remove the bones and reserve the broth for the soup.
Sauté onion, grated carrot, cabbage and garlic in a large pot with a bit of butter or olive oil. Add potato and bay leaves. Fill the pot to about 2/3 with your homemade stock. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or more, to taste). Simmer 1 hour.
Meanwhile, place whole beets in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Boil for approximately 45 minutes or until a fork can be stuck into the beet easily (like testing a potato). Remove the beets from heat and transfer the pot to the sink. Run cold water over the beets and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, rub the skin off of the outside. The outer layer will remove very easily and there is no need to peel them, but it can get a bit messy. I don’t usually wear latex gloves, but you could. Just be careful because the beet juice can stain your clothes and hands. Once you’ve “peeled” the beets with your hands, you will need to dice them. I used to do this by hand, but now I use a little manual food processor/chopper. Whatever works for you.
Add the tomatoes, parsley, beans and dill to the soup.
Mix one cup of sour cream and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda together in a measuring cup – stir the ingredients together. Now this is the hard part, add the prepared beets and sour cream mixture to the soup 10 MINUTES BEFORE SERVING. This means, that you don’t get much opportunity to taste test the finished soup, as the last ingredients are added right at the end. Resist the temptation to throw everything in at the same time, you really want to wait until the end before adding the beets.
Serve the borscht with a dollop of sour cream on top.
Warning: Once the soup has been made, you don’t ever want to bring it to a crazy hot boil again as it will totally take the colour out of your soup and look disgusting. When re-heating, do so carefully.
This seems like a lot of work, but not if you have a food processor to do the chopping for you. I always use to do everything by hand and found it to be quite a bit of work, but now it is pretty simple to make as it is the cutting that seems to take so long. This recipe makes a large batch of soup and freezes well, so I often freeze half the borscht and we enjoy it twice! I hope you love this borscht as much as we have. I am so glad that I not only got my mom’s recipe, but that she “walked” me through the steps of making it before she passed away. What a special gift ~ enjoy!