Borsch Soup, My Family Recipe
Borsch is a type of vegetable soup made of chicken broth and a lot of vegetables, including beetroot, which gave Borsch a traditional deep red colour.
Originally it came from Ukraine, however borsch has been a popular dish in Russia as well. Growing up, we were having borsch, at least, once a week.
In Russia, people actually don’t call borsch (or borscht) a soup. It’s considered a dish on it’s own, separate from the rest of soups.
There are many recipes for borsch, so depends who you talk to, you will get very different instructions for how to cook it. Every region in Russia and Ukraine probably has its own borsch recipe. Some even add sugar & parsnips into borsch, which is a no-no for me. I’ve tried different kinds of borsch before, and the way my grandma cooked it is still my favorite. 🙂
Though I can never make it taste like grandma’s – all her ingredients were home grown, including the chickens, which were still running a couple of hours before my grandma started cooking borsch.
My grandma lost her both parents when she was 13. She was the oldest in the family, so she had to cook for all her younger siblings from a very young age. We are not sure if she learned how to cook borsch from her mother or if someone else tought her how to cook it.
I actually had to consult my mom to get the instructions for cooking borsch right, as this recipe is a bit complicated and I don’t cook it often enough to remember all the details. My mom is the only person now who knows our family borsch recipe, so I thought it’s probably a good idea to write down those instructions.
Most Russian cooking recipes are time consuming and borsch is no exception. To prepare borsch properly, it will probably take you about 2 -2.5 hrs. Though, its worth the time, as you can eat it for a few days. It’s also very tasty and healthy! Some say it helps them with digestive problems.
It actually tastes better the next day. Also, you can eat it hot or cold. It all depends on your personal preferences.
So here is what you will need:
- 2 medium fresh beets, peeled and cut in half (see options in step 7 & 9)
- half of a raw chicken or any other meat (pork or beef) with bones
- 5-6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into medium to large pieces
- 1 lb fresh ripe plum tomatoes, chopped or 1 (16 ounce) can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped (or you can use Heinz tomato juice instead)
- 1 large or 2 medium size onions, chopped
- 1 whole peeled onion
- 5-6 whole black peppercorns
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into even, thin strips (julienne style)
- 1 large green, red or yellow pepper, cored, seeded, and diced (you can mix all 3 colors to make borsch to look more colorful)
- 4-5 cups thinly shredded green cabbage (depends if you want more or less cabbage in your borsch)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 5-8 table spoons of sunflower (or olive) oil (none-refined sunflower oil is ideal. I usually buy it in Russian store “Yummy Market” in Toronto.)
- 1 table spoon of butter
- salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley. You can also add a bit of chopped fresh dill. (optional)
- 0.5 -1 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
- sauerkraut or lemon juice (optional)
- sour cream (optional)
1. Place a piece of chicken or any other meat with bones into a large soup pot.
2. Add water to cover 2/3 of the pot and cook it until water comes to a boil, periodically skimming off the foam, as it rises to the top. Reduce the heat to low and let it cook, partially covered, until the meat is tender, for about 1 -1.5 hrs.
If you don’t have meat or want to make vegetable soup only, you can skip this step or add chicken cubes to your soup later.
3. Right after you start cooking meat, add salt, bay leaves, 5-6 whole black peppercorns and 1 whole peeled onion into your soup pot.
4. Meanwhile, shred green cabbage first, as it takes the most time to prepare it. Then put it aside and cover it with a wrap.
5. Wash and dry the rest of the vegetables.
6. Peel potatoes, cut them into medium to large pieces and place them in a water in a separate pot. Put them aside, along with the shredded cabbage.
7. Chop onions, peppers and carrots, and place all vegetables in a frying pan with some sunflower or olive oil and a bit of butter (about 1 table spoon).
This is optional – you can also shred beets into very thin slices and add them to the mix. (or boil them whole in the soup pot later – Step 9)
Cook all vegetables until onions look light brown color and other vegetables look soft and cooked. Do all this while the meat is cooking.
8. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato juice or tomato paste into frying pan and cook everything for another 10 mins or so. Turn off the heat and leave your frying pan on the stove for now.
This mix is called “Zazharka” in Russian. I have no idea what to call it in English. The closest name I can think of is “Fried Vegetable Mix” because it will look like that at the end.
9. Before meat is ready, add beets. (optional)
If you didn’t prepare beets on Step 7, then do this – at the same time when you start cooking potatoes, add uncooked beets into soup pot, cut in half or as a whole. At this stage beets are added to soup mostly for color. They’ll be thrown away after.
10. When meat is ready, take it out from the soup pot. You can cut it into smaller pieces and add it to your borsch later, when it’s ready, or use it for something else.
11. Try the stock where you cooked meat and add salt, if it’s not salty enough.
12. Add potatoes to your stock and cook them on a medium heat, until they are almost ready. By “almost” I mean your potatoes still need about 5 mins of cooking.
13. Bring the stock with potatoes to a boil.
14. Add Zazharka (Vegetable Mix) you prepared earlier and 3-4 bay bay leaves, and let stock boil for a couple more minutes.
15. Season to taste with pepper and salt (if needed)
16. If your borsch tastes too sweet, add some sauerkraut or lemon juice.
17. Cut cooked meat into smaller pieces and add it back to borsch (optional).
18. Bring the stock to boil
19. Add shredded cabbage and minced garlic, parsley and dill (optional). Mix well! Increase heat and bring to boil.
20. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for no more than 2 minutes.
21. Remove whole onion and beets from borsch and throw them away.
22. Get 3-4 pieces of potato out of the soup pot and mash them until creamy. Place them back into the pot and mix well with the rest of the borsh.
23. Remove soup pot from the heat and let borsch stand for at least 30 minutes before serving.
24. Serve with a small spoon of sour cream. (optional)
That’s it. That’s my Grandma’s Borsch. Enjoy! 🙂