American Chef's Version, a
“Grand Version of Borscht” (modified)
James Peterson’s excellent cook book
This was my first introduction to the cuisine of Eastern Europe and especially Ukraine. September 2005 it was my good fortune to meet an exchange student,
Iryna Shumanska from Ukraine, who confided
to me that yes she missed the food “very much, especially the soups.” I vaguely remembered the word borsch and
found this single reference in our library. It was a lucky find and three days later a pot of Peterson’s Grand Version of Borscht was delivered and received a happy
and surprised exclamation, “It’s just like back home!”
Later Iryna invited me
to help her make this borshch (or borsch) for a function at the church she was attending. This time she directed and the changes
from the original are noted in parentheses. We had fun chopping and dicing together.
Broth for the Church Function Borsch:
Definitely made the day before.
This broth which was the base of the recipe could be considered a double broth by the
time it was in the borsch. For my first borsch delivered to Iryna this step was not done as it was not in my experience or
my quick deadline.
2 pounds beef shank or short ribs or pork neck bones
1 pound marrow
3 quarts water
2 sprigs fresh parsley (well washed)
1 carrot, cut up
1 parsnip, cup
1 stalk celery, cut up
1 tablespoon salt (Maybe two teaspoons?)
Combine beef, bones, and water in a 6 qt kettle. Bring to boiling. Boil 15 minutes,
Add remaining ingredients. Simmer rapidly about 1&1/2 hours,
or until meat is tender.
Strain off broth. Chill quickly. Skim off fat.
meat from bones. Set meat aside for use in other dishes. Discard bones, vegetables and peppercorns.
broth recipe was taken from litech in Lviv, Ukraine but it’s
no longer available on the web.
It can be skipped by going directly to following preparation using water only,
as I did in my very first time making borsch.
2 ea one pound smoked ham hocks
3 pounds beef
brisket or chuck, 1 or 2 large chunks
2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of rind and excess fat, in 2 or 3 large chunks
beef broth from above, or water
1 bouquet fresh garni (preferred) tied together with string, including 3 marjoram sprigs
- 10 fresh thyme sprigs
large bunch of (well washed!) parsley
- 1 bay leaf
or for dried
bouquet garni in a cheesecloth packet:
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
leaves (never ground thyme)
- 1 bunch of (well washed!) parsley, including stems, coarsely chopped
bay leaf, crumbled
Preparing the meats: (this is best done the day ahead)
Place the meats in an 8 quart
pot and cover them by about two inches with the beef broth.
Add the bouquet garni and set the pot over high heat.
As soon as it approaches a boil, turn down the heat and cover the pot. Keep at a slow simmer for 3 hours. Every
30 minutes or so, with a ladle, skim off any froth or fat that floats to the surface.
the soup and reserve the broth.
Take the meat off the ham hocks and discard any rind, gristle, or bone. Break
the meat from the ham hocks into ½ inch chunks. Slice the beef and cut the pork into ½ inch chunks. (Refrigerate
the meat separately from the broth.) Refrigerate the broth and if the fat looks excessive the next day just skim it off.
and remaining ingredients
1&1/2 pounds fresh beets (definitely preferred if possible – smaller beets are better!) or if necessary
2 ea ten ounce cans whole beets.
1 small head of cabbage, preferably Savoy
onion, finely chopped – (Here Iryna changes the recipe, when I had half the onion chopped Iryna said enough onion! She
also said that at home they would grate the onion – I would follow her instruction there also.)
4 leeks, white part only, (well washed!)
cup white wine vinegar (Go slowly, we used 1/2 cup per Iryna’s taste test.)
Salt (Iryna taste tested for salt and we used about 1&1/2
(about 1/4 teaspoon per Iryna)
Iryna also said that her mother would add tomatoes for the red look – that
this is standard. We were cooking in the church kitchen and had I known we would have had some canned tomatoes as well, but
we didn’t and Iryna said she definitely liked the final product.
Sour Cream and chopped Fresh Dill for garnish – definitely.
Preparing the beets – the day
before I roasted fresh beets in a 357 degree F preheated oven for about an hour – until they were easily pierced with
a fork. Wrap the beets in foil before putting in the oven. Cool very slightly and gently rub off skins and refrigerate, not
letting any juice escape! Roasted beets will give the borsch a better color.If fresh beets aren’t available – don’t despair, use canned whole beets.
(Chef Peterson says to discard the juice, cook Cottrell disagrees. You might want to use it in the final mix!)
In either case,
the beets are sliced and cut into strips 1 to 1&1/2 inches long and about 1/4 inch on each side.
Preparing the cabbage – Peel
off and discard the tough outer cabbage leaves. Cut the cabbage vertically into quarters and cut away the strip of core running
along the side of each quarter. Slice the quarters as thinly as you can, shredding the cabbage.
Putting it together! Finally
While the slicing
and dicing are going on have the meat and the broth out of the refrigerator and definitely skim the fat if it is excessive.
need the big pot! Bring the broth up to a gentle boil and add the chopped onion, leeks, and cabbage (Not the cooked or canned
beets because they are already cooked!) Return to a boil then adjust the heat to simmer for about 25 minutes until all the
vegetables are appropriately tender. During the last ten minutes add the meat.
Turn the fire to very low to off and
add the beets. Let them just steep for about ten minutes and get happy. Make a judgment – if you have used canned beets
and reserved the juice would the nice purple color be enhanced by adding a bit of juice? If so add as appropriate to the eye!)
Taste test after adding the
juice. Stir in some of the white wine vinegar and test. Same with the salt and pepper – taste test it right on in as
your masterpiece! Ladle into hot bowls and put a small dollop of sour cream on each and sprinkle with chopped dill.
this is genuine, it shows off your broth and is well worth the effort – if a Ukrainian high school exchange student
says she really likes it, that’s as good as it gets.
I believe that if you follow these instructions you will have
a winner first time out even if you have never even seen borsch.
book “Splendid Soups” can be found at Amazon.com, and with luck you can pick up a used 2001 edition in good condition.