Alea’s Russian Borscht

by Alea on January 25, 2011

First off, I am not claiming this is an authentic Russian Borscht recipe.

We were blessed to have a Russian exchange student,Yana, stay with us in 1996. When a neighbor asked her if she liked borscht, she said yes. But when our friend presented her with the bottled beet broth that is sold as borscht in America, her disappointment was obvious.

When we returned home, I asked her if she would teach me how to make real Russian borscht. She said that though she had helped her mother, she wasn’t entirely sure of how to do it. So I suggested we call her mother in Russia. We passed the phone around trying to piece together the recipe. My husband and Yana could both speak Russian and English, but were not fluent in cooking terms in either language. Yana’s mother did not speak very much English and my attempts at Russian always reduced Yana to giggles, so I am sure much was lost in translation. :)

Here’s what we came up with…

Ingredients

1 lb. stew meat, cut into very small pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 garlic cloves minced
8 cups beef broth
2 cups beets, diced (I leave the skin on)
2 cups potatoes, diced (I leave the skin on)
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup carrots diced
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 can diced tomatoes, do not drain
1 tablespoon fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)
pinch of salt
dash of pepper

Directions

1. Add oil, stew meat, onions, and garlic to a large stock pot. Cook over a medium heat until the meat is browned.

Cutting the meat into small pieces is an easy way to stretch the meat in soups.

2. Add broth, vegetables, and spices. Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are fork tender.

As the soup cooks the beets release their color and produce a lovely red broth.

Borscht is the ultimate “cellar recipe”. It is made primarily from cool weather vegetables that keep well in cold storage. Many of the veggies in this soup were harvested from my garden in the fall, but you can find them affordably priced in your local grocery stores.

Who else is still eating from the garden?  Do you still have the cooler weather vegetables in your cellar or basement?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Flanagan January 25, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Hi Alea!
My mother was full Russian and I was raised on Borscht. As you probably already know, borscht is really just the russian word for soup. Yours is quite similiar to my mother’s except she used mostly celery, onion and cabbage and always stewed tomatoes. Probably a lot of what they grew here when my mom was small. The meat would differ and I use chicken for the meat broth a lot. My mother always spiced it up a bit with salsa or something, but the biggest thing is adding sour cream when you serve it. Russian’s love and use sour cream as much as possible. Thank you for this recipe and I am sure that everyone realizes that it can be modified with just about any vegetable- we make this year round and love it.

Thanks,
Mary

Reply

Alea January 25, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Mary,

I am so glad that you commented! I meant to pass on that borscht is usually served with sour cream but forgot. Nobody in my family likes sour cream so we don’t use it. However, I agree that it is considered a staple ingredient!

Thanks,
Alea

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Rose January 31, 2011 at 5:19 pm

would they like plain yogurt? That’s how my borscht-loving family always serves it.

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Alea February 8, 2011 at 4:58 pm

That is a good idea!

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Alta January 26, 2011 at 9:10 am

I made a version of borscht for the first time a few months ago. Didn’t get to use sour cream (I’m dairy-free) but it was still so hearty and good. Love your version. I think I need to make another batch while the weather is still cool!

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Alexandra January 26, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Hi! I am a native Russian and just could not keep myself from the commenting on this post. I live in US and my kids LOVE russian borsh (there is no “T” in the end, by the way). The thing is that the soup should be intensely red. And the only way to keep it red is to stew for 10-15 min veggies with some water and lemon juice (or vinegar) – some acid in short, BEFORE you put it in your heated up broth. The juice from the beets will color all the veggies but beet chunks will not get discolored for some reason. After the veggies (cabbage, onion, carrots, beets – all skinless) got soft, put it in your pot with the broth. We always add pepper corns and bay leaf to the broth. Cook for 10-15 min longer and add cubed potatoes. 10-15 min after that add tomatoes or tomato paste, does not matter. Simmer for another 15 min and you are done! Tastes the best next day. I love this blog and it was fun to see a familiar recipe. Thanks!

Reply

Alea January 27, 2011 at 1:02 am

Alexandra,

Vinegar was definitely lost in translation! I have seen it in recipes and did not fully understand its purpose, so I have never added it. My soup is a beautiful red and all of the veggies are stained red…the day after I cook it. :) Now I know how to make it a beautiful bright red the first night, thank you!

Your recipes sounds delicious! Thank you for sharing it. I will definitely try implementing some of your suggestions, but I must confess to being too lazy to peel all of those veggies. :)

Reply

Martha Artyomenko February 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm

One thing about this soup, is to remember like every Italian makes different spaghetti sauce, so the Russians! I am married to a Russian man and I have tasted all different versions!
I could send you my recipe if you want!

Reply

Erroll F. Brosnan March 12, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Perhaps I will combine all these various suggestions into one.
I’ll let you know what happens.

Reply

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