I don't know what made me make this blazing red beet borscht. As a child I turned my nose up at it. I don't even recall a spoonful of this passing through my lips or even close to them. Heaven forbid. It is only in my adult years that I discovered that beets are pretty good. Yes they are very red, but they are pretty good and very pretty in all their colorful forms, be it gold or candy striped. Maybe it is nostalgia that made me make this. Maybe I just had to see for myself what this borscht was all about. I will always recall the jar of borscht from Manischewitz, kept in our fridge, specifically reserved for when my father came home for lunch; not that any of us kids would touch it. He ceremoniously poured it into a bowl and topped it with a dollop of sour cream and slurped away while reading the Chicago Tribune.
I'm not sure I've told you that my father came from Lithuania in 1938 when he was 7 years old, aboard the Normandy, with his parents, brother and sister, while narrowly escaping the demise of their village. Most of the family was not so lucky. My father is from the OLD Country-as he puts it- where I guess they eat food like red borscht. And potatoes. And cabbage. And bread. And had no toys! (So my father always told us.) As a child I thought Lithuania must be a very cold place, because when I stared at the family passport photo, everyone wore heavy coats. They came to Ellis Island in August when wearing a coat must have made them quite hot, so then I presume they ate their borscht cold-because borscht can be had both ways. Neither was very appealing, to say the least, when I was a wee one.
So I made this borscht while baking hamentaschen, which makes me quite the Bubby, I think. Even though I am far from being a Bubby; though my own Bubby had I believe- about 8 grand kids at my age-the oldest being moi. I never ate her borscht either-but I do remember eating sugar cubes that were hiding in her cupboard. While I was making this borscht Manservant poked his head in and said that it looks like I was making peasant food. Well...borscht is peasant food. It contains cabbage and potatoes and onions and yeah-beets. I asked if he'd like a spoonful and he politely replied, " That's OK. I'll pass". Ah, I thought-more for me- which is what my mother probably said years ago.
And so it is, I made my first bowl of borscht. I still can't imagine eating it cold, but nothing beats a bowl of hot borscht on a cold day. I may not be from the Old Country, but I'm proud to say that peasant food or not, those Bubbies way back when, knew what they were doing. Using whatever staples were available to them, they came up with a soup that has withstood time. Thank goodness I've finally made it. I hope my kids don't wait so long.
Beet Borscht Soup
Time to Make: About 30 minutes prep and 75 minutes for soup to cook
Adapted From: The Community Table
1 t caraway seeds (optional)
1 lb beets, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1-1/1/2 t kosher salt
4-5 c chicken stock or veggie stock
1/2 lb Yukon gold potatoes-cut into 1/2" cubes
1 1/2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 c chopped red onions
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into 1/2" thick half moons
2 c chopped green cabbage
1-2 T chopped fresh dill
1-1 1/2 T cider vinegar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 T of honey or to taste
1 1/4 c tomato puree
1 T raisins-optional
Freshly Ground black pepper
Sour Cream or Yogurt
Chopped Fresh Dill
If you are using the caraway, toast it in a small skillet over medium heat until lightly colored. Set aside. (I don't like caraway, so I don't use it.)
In a large heavy bottomed pot, combine beets and 1/2 t salt with 4 c of stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beets are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue to simmer until the veggies are fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer veggies to a medium bowl and set aside. Reserve cooking liquid.
In a heavy bottomed soup pot, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, stir to coat with oil and saute one minute. Add the caraway-if using-1/2 t salt and saute until onions are translucent about 5 minutes. Add celery, carrots, and cabbage. Add reserved cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are fork tender, 10-15 minutes. Add the reserved potatoes and beets, dill to taste, vinegar to taste, lemon juice, honey, tomato puree and raisins, if using. Season with salt and pepper.
Uncover the pot and simmer slowly for 30-40 minutes. Add more stock if mixture gets too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more vinegar to taste. Serve in bowls, with a big hunk of bread and garnish with sour cream and dill.
More to try:
Chicken Soup Chicken
Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Meatballs
Matzoh Ball Soup
Onion Crusted Potato Kugel Casserole
Flourless, Gluten Free Passover Fudge Cake
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