This recipe can be veganized and taste quite good, but it is simply heavenly when cooked with beef, and beef bones!! Borscht is, at its core, peasant food… made with whatever is on hand. The only real core ingredients are beets, cabbage, and potatoes! Just like chicken noodle soup in the United States, there are as many versions of borscht as their are Eastern European households. The following recipe is my absolute favorite way of preparing this soul-warming soup, but feel free to customize and adjust all the ratios to suit your taste and available ingredients. This version also produces A LOT of soup (to feed my whole family, and provide days of leftovers). Feel free to halve or quarter this recipe as necessary. For the best tasting borscht, prepare to have the pot simmering all day. Start the meat as soon as you wake up, and slowly add things through the day. Pro-tip: the flavors only get better after a day or two in the fridge.
-Small chuck roast, or any beef suitable for pot roast (WITH bones is preferable, as it enhances the flavor immensely. I often add beef short ribs or oxtail.)
– 4 fresh tomatoes
-entire head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
-4 bay leaves
-sea salt to taste
-12 to 15 small beets (try to gauge the equivalent if using larger beets. If you are a stickler for deep purple color, you will probably need even more beets!)
-gloves, if desired, to prevent hands/manicure from staining
-half a head of cabbage, thinly sliced
-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
-1 parsnip, peeled and chopped (may substitute with additional carrot if you don’t have parsnips)
-2 to 3 cups diced red potatoes
-2 standard plastic packages of fresh dill (or one medium-sized bundle)
-1 to 3 tablespoons caraway seeds, to taste
-water, as necessary, to achieve the consistency you prefer
-sour cream, for serving
-flavorful rye bread, for serving
As soon as you wake up, trim the meats of excess fat, and place into your largest stock pot. Pour in enough water to cover the meat, and a couple tablespoons of sea salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for several hours, or until the meat is extremely tender and almost falls apart when you try to remove it from the pot.
Once the meat is tender, remove from the pot carefully and reserve on a plate. Try to leave any bones in the pot (unless they are small fragments and could easily get lost and swallowed. In that case, remove now while they are still easy to find).
Peel the beets (I recommend using a vegetable peeler to make this easier), and grate them carefully with a box-grater. This is messy work, and you may want to wear surgical gloves if you don’t want your hands to get stained for a day or two. I also suggest wearing an apron, or clothes you don’t particularly care about. Add all the grated beets to the pot.
Puree the tomatoes and garlic in a blender until smooth, and add to pot. Add bay leaves. Stir everything together, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Add carrots, parsnip, and cabbage. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste for salt, and add water if you wish.
Add potatoes, and simmer until they are cooked and soft, and all the vegetables are soft. Continue to adjust salt and water to your preference.
Shred the reserved meat and add as much as you prefer to pot. If you have a lot of meat leftover, the tender pieces can easily be used to make Sloppy-Joes, steak sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas, or breakfast hash. Since it has simply been cooked in boiling salt water, it will have a mild taste and go well with many other recipes.
Stir to warm the meat back up, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Finely chop all the dill (you may include the stems if you wish), and add to pot. Add caraway seeds and stir.
Allow to sit off the heat for the delicate flavors of the dill and caraway to infuse.
Stir, and serve with a dollop of sour cream, and maybe even a thick slice of rye bread slathered with butter and topped with caviar!