I’ve blogged about borsch a few years ago, but it’s time to revisit this classic Russian soup. For starters, I make a slightly different version of borsch every time. In fact, baked goods aside, there’s no definitive version of any Russian recipe on this blog—it all depends on available ingredients and personal taste. I wish I could give you exact amounts and cooking times, but no can do. Cooking is all about tasting and adjusting recipes to what you’ve got around. My borsch probably doesn’t taste like borsch that’s made in a village outside Moscow, but that’s okay. It’s still good.
My old borsch recipe is a bit convoluted. This version is simpler, including the stock, which I made in a crock pot. Don’t be put off by the long directions. Once you’ve got your stock, this recipe takes about an hour from start to finish.
I covered a couple of pounds of pork ribs with cold water in a crock pot, tossed in some chopped up carrots and onions and a couple of bay leaves, and set the crock pot on low for eight hours. When time was up, I let the stock cool and strained the liquid. I sliced the meat into 1-inch pieces and added it back to the stock. A meaty borsch is the best kind. (I tossed the vegetables; great for flavoring stock but useless after eight hours of cooking.) You’ll need about 8 cups of stock for this borsch; freeze the rest.
The day before I made my borsch, I pre-cooked 3 small beets (bring water to a boil, add the well-scrubbed beets, and simmer until soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.)
For the borsch, I brought the stock to a simmer in a soup pot. In the meantime, I peeled and diced 2 medium potatoes into ½-inch chunks, and added them to the soup pot. I also finely shredded about ¼ head of a large cabbage, and added it to the soup pot as well.
While the potatoes and cabbage were cooking, I sautéed 1 large, finely chopped onion and 1 large, diced carrot in sunflower oil until soft and golden, about 20 minutes.
When the potatoes and cabbage were soft (about 20 minutes, give or take—taste them), I added the onions and carrots to the soup pot. I let the vegetables simmer, and got to work on the beets.
I peeled and finely grated the beets, and mixed them with 1.5 cups tomato sauce (made as described here). You can substitute a small can of tomato paste (like I did last time), a couple of large, chopped tomatoes, or 1.5 cups canned, crushed tomatoes. Use what you have around.
I brought the beet and tomato mixture to a simmer in a sauté pan for about five minutes. Then I set about flavoring it. The beet mixture makes borsch what it is, so it’s important to get this right. I added a splash of red wine vinegar, and ¼ tsp. each of kosher salt, sugar and red pepper flakes to the plan, then stirred, tasted, and repeated. I like my borsch sweet and sour, with a bit of a bite. I’d estimate that I used 4 tbs. red wine vinegar, 2 tsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, and a good 1. 5 tbs. salt to get the right flavor. When I was satisfied, I added the beets to the soup pot.
I let the borsch simmer for 10-15 minutes, tasting it every once in a while and adjusting the flavor with extra red wine vinegar, sugar, salt and tomato sauce.
I finely chopped 2 garlic cloves and a handful of parsley leaves, and added this to the soup pot just before serving.
As always, serve with rye bread and sour cream.