2013-12-05_Borscht_Mashers

I loooove borscht. The first time I ever made it I was over run with beets from my CSA. This was in college and we had an agriculture program there and if you lived on campus (or off) your could buy a CSA share. This was the first time I had ever heard of a CSA by the way and I thought it was very cool and it taught me to cook lots of different kinds of produce I wasn’t used to.

So I was in my on campus apartment making dinner for my housemates. Everything in the kitchen was red, including my hands and my shirt. I loved the experience. Ever since then, I have been hooked. In fact during my pregnancy I had a dream while napping of eating borscht, so my husband made it for me. Since I love it so much, I figured it would be a perfect addition to my postpartum menu. I used beets that we had grown in our garden the year before that were roasted and then frozen. Definitely handy for a borscht lover.

This soup is restorative, comforting and deeply nourishing. Since I am such a borscht fanatic, I asked my friend and fellow blogger Sofya, who blogs at A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter for her recipe. She is from Azerbaijan and that being a former Soviet republic, I figured she would have a truly authentic recipe. Her recipe begins with making homemade beef bone broth which is the base of the soup. This is truly delicious comfort food.

This borscht is the best! In fact I am eating some right now. Today I served it over mashed potatoes with some fresh sauerkraut on top. In my version I was lazy and I cubed all my veggies instead of grating them. But I guess you can’t blame me for taking a short cut, I was 9 months pregnant when I made it! I hope you make some and enjoy it during the cold, cold days of winter.

Russian Borscht Recipe by Sofya Hunt

Makes approximately 7 to 8 quarts

INGREDIENTS:

For the stock:

2 roasts, such as chuck or arm, 2 to 3 lbs each, or 4 to 6 lbs soup bones (or some combination of both)
2 gallons cold water
1 whole turnip, unpeeled
1 whole large onion, peeled and studded with 10-12 cloves
2 large carrots, unpeeled
1/2 celeriac, peeled
2 large bay leaves
10 dried allspice berries

For the soup:

12 medium beets
1 medium head of cabbage, shredded (do not use the core)
2 small to medium unpeeled turnips, grated
2 medium to large unpeeled parsnips, grated
4-6 unpeeled carrots, grated
1/2 celeriac, peeled and grated
2 large onions, chopped
2 potatoes, cubed
3 sticks of butter, for sauteing the vegetables
2/3 to 1 whole 8-oz can tomato paste
meat reserved from making the stock, cubed
1 whole head of garlic, cloves peeled and minced
organic beef base, or an equivalent
additional water or stock, as needed
lemon juice, to taste
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 bunch parsley, chopped
sour cream and extra parsley, for serving

The Stock

Place meat and vegetables in cold water and bring to a simmer. Skim off the scum that will rise to the top just before the simmering point. Once the stock is simmering, add bay leaf and allspice. Cover partially and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and the liquid had been reduced by at least half. Let cool and strain, reserving the meat and discarding the vegetables and spices. Note that I don’t degrease my stock, but if you’d like to do it, chill it in the fridge overnight and use a slotted spoon to remove solidified fat from the surface in the morning.

The Soup

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap the beets tightly in foil and pierce the packages (the foil and the beets) with a fork in several places to allow some of the steam to escape, thus preventing them from exploding in your oven. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until a knife can be slid easily in and out. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and unwrap. To peel them easily, hold each beet under warm running water while rubbing it with your hands – the skins will slip right off. Grate cooled beets and set aside.

Melt butter in a large stainless steel saute pan or a dutch oven (don’t be taken aback by the amount of butter – it will all be absorbed by the veggies before you know it). When the butter begins to foam, add grated parsnips, turnips, carrots, celeriac, and chopped onion and saute until the onions are translucent and the root vegetables begin to soften. Reduce the heat to low and stir in tomato paste. Set aside.

Bring strained stock to a boil and add the cabbage and the cubed potatoes. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sauteed root vegetables and 3/4 of grated beets (we’ll be adding the rest towards the end for additional color boost). Continue simmering gently, partially covered, for 40 minutes. If your soup appears too thick at this point, feel free to add more water or extra stock until the consistency is right. If using homemade stock, add beef base (do not add extra salt until you are done adding beef base as it tends to be very salty on its own). Stir in the remaining beets, cubed meat, minced garlic, pepper, lemon juice, and more salt if needed (the exact amount of lemon juice will depend on your taste, but the goal is to strike a perfect balance between sweetness and acidity so your borscht is neither too sour, nor too sweet). Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the beets are no longer dark-red and the garlic has mellowed out. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley.

Let cool and refrigerate overnight before serving the next day.