Borscht

A bowl of borscht with sour cream and dill.

Borscht: all of the vegetables, but mostly beets, crammed into possibly the most vibrant soup in western cooking. In central Alberta borscht is second only to perogy’s as the culinary torch of Ukrainian heritage.

I distinctly remember the first time I saw borscht. It was many, many years before I came to Alberta, living as a young boy in Ontario. I family friend made it and I can’t describe how strange it was to me. The only purple items I’d seen for human consumption was grape juice. It now seems not just acceptable but strikingly beautiful and such a special ode to the root cellar.

I think your borscht should be tailored to the exact veggies you have on hand, but following is a version that should be useful from late summer all the way to the spring gap. Consider though the potential for seasonal variation. A simple example: in summertime the beet greens could be wilted into the soup alongside their root-buddies.

Borscht

Ingredients

  • 60 mL vegetable oil (or bacon grease, or lard, if you’re not concerned with keeping this recipe vegetarian)
  • 225 g yellow onion, sliced
  • 15 g garlic, finely minced
  • 225 g carrot, peeled and cut into3/4″ cubes
  • 115 g celery, cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 1 tbsp dry marjoram
  • 500 g red cabbage, sliced into thin strips not more than 2″ long
  • 150 g g yellow potato, 3/4″ cubes
  • 900 g red beets, peeled, 3/4″ cubes
  • 120 mL dry cider
  • 1.6 L vegetable broth (or pork broth, or chicken broth, if you’re not concerned with keeping this recipe vegetarian)
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • sour cream and dill to garnish

Procedure

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot and add the onions, garlic, carrot, celery, and marjoram. Cook until onions are starting to turn translucent.
  2. Add red cabbage and cook until wilted.
  3. Add potatoes and beets and cook briefly.
  4. Add dry cider and bring to a rapid boil. Add vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently until beets are tender.
  5. Remove about 500 mL of the soup and purée to a fine consistency. Return to the pot.
  6. Add the cider vinegar. Taste and adjust salt and pepper content as necessary.

Yield: about 4 L Borscht