Borsch (Борщ)

As the weather gets colder, it’s the perfect time to make this traditional Russian soup.

We had a warm autumn here in New Jersey, but it’s finally starting to feel like winter … which means it’s officially soup weather. As the weather turned and I started to prepare to make some soups, I realized it had been years since I made borsch (which probably means more than anything that I’m officially an American). Every Russian mother passes on her unique recipe for borsch to her daughter, and this is my method. I like to break in this recipe in a couple of stages, that way I can make it totally from scratch without having to do it all at once. I prepare everything the day or two before so I can just dump it all into the pot and simply bring it to a boil when I’m ready to eat it. And just as a warning: I recently purchased a 7.5 quart dutch oven (see the picture to the right) and like to have leftovers when I make soup so this recipe makes a pretty big batch.

Broth Ingredients

  • 1 lb. stew beef
  • 16 cups water
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • Salt to taste

Soup Ingredients

  • 2 cups cabbage, shredded
  • 3 1/2 cups beets, cooked and shredded (see step one below)
  • 2 cups baby potatoes, quartered
  • 2 medium-large carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 tbsp dill, chopped
  • 1 lb. cooked beef (from broth), thinly sliced
  • Sour cream for serving
  • Ghee (or butter) for cooking

Step One: Cook Beets

Preheat oven to 375°F. Wash and dry beets. Rub with olive oil, wrap individually in foil, place on a baking sheet, and bake until cooked through (about 45-60 minutes, though mine were on the big side and took closer to 90 minutes). Use a toothpick to determine when they’re done. If it goes in and out easy, they’re done. Let them cool, then refrigerate until you’re ready to use them. Or you can shred the beets before refrigerating.

Step Two: Prepare Broth

Put stew beef into a soup pot and cover with 16 cups of water. Add onion, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Add salt. Cook until meat is done, about 25-30 minutes. Remove the meat and let it cool. Slice into thin strips. Pour the broth through a strainer and cheese cloth. Refrigerate broth and meat until ready to use.

Step Three: Make Borsch

In a skillet, melt some ghee (I had some left over from my sweet chicken pilaf recipe) or butter. Add carrots and onion and cook until soft (about 5 minutes).

In a pot, bring broth to a boil. Add carrots, onion, cabbage, and potatoes. Simmer on low until the potatoes are cooked (about 15 minutes).

Add beets and beef, and let them warm through.

Mix in dill and pressed garlic. Taste and add additional salt, dill, and garlic as needed. Cook for 1-2 minutes to let all the flavors mix.

Serve with sour cream.

Приятного аппетита! (Priyatnova appetita! Russian for ‘Bon Appetit!’)

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