Should I make borscht, borshch, borsht, bortsch, or borsch?
October 3, 2016 5:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm prepared to make borscht, I have ingredients, tools, desire, and an overabundance of options. Help me pick the best one.

I have beets. I have celery, onions, carrots, red cabbage, potatos, cans of kraut, beef stock, and some sort of solid, chop-up-able beef/venison/elk in the freezer.

I also have a few hours, a well equipped kitchen, and above average cooking skills.

I also have like 24 tabs open, each with an entirely different borscht recipe.

Sweet and sour?
Super beefy?
Lots of veggies?
Shredded or chunky?


Hit me with your best recipes, rules of thumb, arguments for or against a particular style, advice, etc.

Also it's raining and cold out, so take your chilled soups and kick rocks.
posted by Grandysaur to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

1. Not sweet
2. Some beef
3. Yes, lots of veggies

My general recipe (that I usually don't add meat to because I have vegetarian friends) is (awkwardly copied from my recipe file) is:

3 beets (large)
3 carrots (medium)
3 potatoes (medium)
half a cabbage
half a yellow onion
some garlic
3 bay leaves
'some' dill
'some' parsley
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1. pre cook beets/carrots/potatoes + chop
2. chop cabbage
3. fry yellow onion+garlic in sunflower oil
4. add (8-10 cups) veggie broth or water or whatever
5. throw in three bay leaves, some dill, some parsley
6. after that boils a bit, throw in veggies
7. let the soup boil for an hour to meld flavors
8. throw in 1 or 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
9. salt+pepper to taste
10. garnish with scoop of sour cream

I add beef if I have it available and am not cooking for vegetarians. I also adjust it based on whatever I have at my house, and I usually up the dill and parsley (but that's not for everyone).
posted by aaanastasia at 5:16 PM on October 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

100 % vouch for the Veselka Borscht Recipe. I can PM you the recipe when I am home. but it is hands down the best borscht I've eaten. (better than my grandma's even...)

If you ever have a hankering for eastern European food though, I do recommend getting the Veselka cookbook. It is a perfect reference for those recipes your grandma wrote that have very ambiguous measurements.

I found the winter borscht recipe online, but it's not quite the one I'd recommend for today...
posted by larthegreat at 5:18 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

The answer is YES! I use a recipe very similar to aaanastasia's but also add 1 tablespoon of honey. It tastes best on day two and three (if it even lasts that long!)
posted by oxisos at 5:38 PM on October 3, 2016

1. A good balance of sweet and sour. This probably means adding vinegar to taste unless the beets are not very sweet. You want sour cream too just because.
2. I've never used meat in my borscht, but a meaty stock couldn't hurt. I would not want chunks of meat though, distracts from the core borcht experience.
3. Onion for sure, and cabbage seems appropriate. I'm on the fence about lots of other veggies. Carrots, celery, bell pepper can make for a more complex and varying flavor, but it should be mostly about the beets, dill, and sour cream.
4. I shred the cabbage and beets, and include the shredded beets in the borcht. I've seen several recipes, including one linked upthread, that discard the beets and use only the stock. Certainly more refined, but I like to keep closer to peasant food here.

My recipe starts with quartered beets and potatoes, but once cooked they are removed from the liquid. The beets are shredded and returned to the soup. Onions are sauted in butter and the potatoes are added to that, mashed, a little milk added, and the essentially onion mashed potatoes mixed back into the soup. It seems weird, but the result is super rich.
posted by joeyh at 6:08 PM on October 3, 2016

Pro tip: wear latex gloves while peeling beets, avoid pink fingernails.
posted by slateyness at 7:34 PM on October 3, 2016

Here's the recipe I use most often, I got rid of the floor for gluten free friends and I haven't missed it.
posted by Duffington at 8:43 PM on October 3, 2016

Does any of the meat have bones? I personally love using something like spare ribs in the soup over a long cook so that the broth gets all collagen-ey, then shredding the meat off the bones and removing the bones right before serving.

2. I've never used meat in my borscht, but a meaty stock couldn't hurt. I would not want chunks of meat though, distracts from the core borcht experience.

This is the kind of thing that varies by region; my Galician Jewish family never used to put meat in borscht, but my girlfriend is Russian and she and her family insist that a borsch without chunks of meat in it is barely a borsch at all. I've come around to meat chunks in hot borsch, though I usually omit it in the cold stuff.
posted by Itaxpica at 2:37 AM on October 4, 2016

My mother and I use a recipe similar to aaanastasia's but I don't add cabbage or onion and I do add leafs from the beets. Plus we aren't vegetarian so meat is added. Also for mine I add some hot peppers. Just enough to give it a touch of kick but not so much you are reaching for milk. Also lots of dill; no, more than that.

We run all our roots through the large shredder on a Saladmaster.

Really though it is sort of fluid. Beets and potatoes and carrots from our gardens aren't all graded for size like you get from a super market so a number of isn't useful. We get somewhere in the 1.5:1:.5 sort of ratio and go from there.
posted by Mitheral at 5:34 AM on October 4, 2016

This recipe is basically the borscht that I make. You make a beef stock first using beef short ribs.
posted by medeine at 8:23 AM on October 4, 2016

I haven't seen this question, because I was caught up in the election threads. So maybe you have now cooked a wonderful borscht. Still, I'll suggest that if you can, find the Carême's recipe in the Larousse Gastronomique (I've googled the actual recipe, but couldn't find it). Go to the library or buy the paperback if you can find it, it's useful in many ways.
That recipe is crazy, but it is also very, very tasty. I've made it with a friend a few times, and while it is not an every day recipe (it involves duck, two chickens (one raw, one roasted), a chuck of beef, some pork, deviled eggs, beef quenelles and a lot more), it teaches you how to create great flavour even with less ingredients.
First of all, the mix of meats is delicious, it gives you a really lovely umami that I cannot describe in other words than sweet, though it's definitely not sweet. So if you could add a bit of chicken wings or a duck leg or some pork ribs to your basic broth, you'd improve it a lot. Mixing beef and game is probably a winner.
Second, the meats that are eventually served in the soup are just poached in the broth till they are ready, then taken out till serving time and cut up in spoon sized bites. So their taste is included in the final soup, but they are not boiled to death. The main principle of his version is that there is a mixed meat basic broth in which one poaches different meats.
The vegs in the basic broth are your standard soup vegs and 6 beets. These are all discarded before eating. You can poach fresh vegetables including beets in the broth just like the meat, but what Carême does is juice one beet and add it just before serving: the color and fresh taste from this lifts and sharpens the soup.
Carême (naturally) clears the soup, with minced beef and whipped egg-whites. I love doing this, the result is so pretty.
For serving, Carême puts all the different poached meats in the bottom of his serving bowl, then adds the clear soup, and finally tops with deviled eggs and poached quenelles. It is very elegant. It is also filling, though it doesn't look or feel hearty like the traditional peasant's food most of us associate with borscht.
posted by mumimor at 9:39 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Square or equivalent for Canadians in the US   |   Spring has sprung: we need a new couch! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.