My father's mother was Ukrainian and she made borscht all the time. There are always different versions of borscht, so I invite you to play around with the ingredients, adding more or less of whatever you fancy. One thing stays the same though; wear dark clothing when handling beets. And pomegranates, for that matter. Here's the recipe I used:
You will need:
2 Ham hocks
1 1/2 lb Beef brisket or chuck, fat trimmed
3 qt Beef broth *
2 cups water
3 Bay leaves
5 Allspice berries
3 dashes Caraway Seed
5 medium Beets, roasted, sliced into sticks **
4 TB Red wine vinegar
1/2 cup tomato purée
2 TB Sugar
2 TB Unsalted Butter
1 medium Brown Onion, diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
2 small Carrots; shredded
5 small boiling Potatoes, cut into large cubes
1 head Cabbage, stalk cut out then shredded
1/2 lb Kielbasa – (to 1 lb), sliced
1/4 cup Kvass ***(I used 1/2 cup Pilsner Urquell beer), or Vinegar or Lemon Juice
1/3 cup snipped fresh Dill
6 Garlic Cloves, minced fine
Dill Sprigs and Sour Cream for garnish
In a large pot, combine meats with broth and water, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice and caraway seed. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, skimming frequently, for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Strain soup, reserving broth and meats separately. Remove meat from the ham hocks, discarding any gristle or bone and cut into dice. Cut beef into large dice. Return meat and broth to pot and add vinegar, tomato purée and sugar. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a skillet set over medium heat, melt butter. Sauté onion and red pepper for about 3 minutes; then add carrots, and sauté until vegetables are softened, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper; add to pot.
Add potatoes and shredded cabbage to pot; simmer for 5 minutes. Add sliced kielbasa to pot and simmer another 5 minutes.
Carefully fold in beets.
Add minced garlic and fresh dill,
along with the kvass.
Let simmer, uncovered, for about 3 minutes. Turn heat off and let stand 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Dish into bowls and garnish with dill sprigs and sour cream. Serve with rye bread if you'd like and enjoy!
Note: The order of adding vegetables to the soup is very important as you do not want to over cook them. Also, when boiling vegetables, it’s best to cook them on a steady low boil because a rapid boil (high heat) can cause them to collide and break apart.
*The soup may be a bit salty from the ham hocks, so you may need to add more water to taste.
**The beets can be roasted, skin on, for an hour at 400 degrees. When roasting, wrap in aluminum foil after seasoning with olive oil, salt and pepper. The foil should be tightly sealed so heat can’t escape. After an hour, take them out of oven and let rest for15 minutes before peeling off skin. Be careful, since beets stain. You may want to use gloves or just buy pre roasted beets at Trader Joe’s!
***Kvass is a fermented, mildly alcoholic drink made from rye bread that is very popular in Russia. You can substitute Kombucha for the Kvass, or whatever beer you have in your fridge.
M and M's Grandma