Borscht Is A Concept

I first published this post on Semkee/Seeds on October 1, 2011.  I LOVE borscht!  I love MY borscht!  I love trying other people’s borscht!  Always remember, BORSCHT IS A CONCEPT!  Aren’t you lucky I’m sharing my own personal borscht recipe with you!?

Yesterday I posted this status update on my Facebook page, “Remember, borscht is not just a dish, it’s a concept.” This produced a long thread of comments and so instead of posting a reply on Facebook, I decided that a blog post on the topic of borscht would be more appropriate. And for such a great response to my status, I will even post my borscht recipe for you all to try to make at home.

Firstly, I cannot take credit for the quote, “Borscht is not just a dish, it’s a concept.” That awesome quote came from a dear lady who works in our Day Center. She did not use the word “philosophy” but I think that is one way of translating what she meant. Borscht is a concept, a philosophy, a way of life, a process, an art. There are as many different borscht recipes as there are Ukrainian women. That’s probably a whole other blog post!
The ingredients that I use has changed slightly since I was first taught the basic recipe as I’ve experimented to come up with what I think is a great bowl of borscht.
The one ingredient that is mandatory to make borscht is the beet. Before you think, “euwww,” trust me on this. The Ukrainian beet is amazing and tasty. Cut it open and hold your nose to it and take a deep breath and smell the earth the way God originally made it to smell.
Made with beets, and a conglomeration of other vegetables, usually potatoes, carrots, and cabbage, borscht is typically a reddish color. Yes, lots of cabbage makes it less red. In my opinion, a good borscht should be mostly red with a tinge of golden color to it.
I spoke about the “process” of making borscht with my Ukrainian friend and she said it is more common in Eastern Ukraine to boil the beets and vegetables which takes the color out of the beets. In other parts of Ukraine, it is more common to fry the beets before adding it to the stock and this makes the borscht redder in color. She said that if her grandmother knew she fried her beets, she would probably roll over in her grave! My Kyvian neighbor taught me how to make it and she showed me by frying the vegetables. How to prepare your borscht is a serious topic and not to be taken lightly. No, it is not just a bowl of soup. It is borscht! Respect your borscht! It is a concept!
There is a such a thing as green borscht and I have a recipe I use that was given to me by my Ukrainian Mom. It is rather simple and does not include beets but features instead sorrel leaves which make the dish green colored. It is good, but to me, not as tasty as borscht with beets.
Ingredients can vary with some people adding meat or beans. The most exotic borscht dish I’ve ever tried had fish and stewed plums in it. It sounds gross but it was actually very good.
My Borscht Recipe
Get your soup pot out and add five cups of water to make stock. I just use instant chicken broth.
Chop up a small onion, add butter to a frying pan with the onion and cook until it gets soft. Shred a small beet and two carrots in a grater and add these vegetables to the onion in the frying pan. Add a little oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. I also add a vegetable “spice.” I also mince about three cloves of garlic and add it to the vegetables. When the vegetables are cooked well, add them to the stock.
Peel and dice two potatoes and add them to the stock and vegetables. Slice up about half a cabbage and add it to the pot. Cut up fresh dill and add a small handful.
Simmer until the potatoes are soft and cooked well. Check the seasoning.
If possible let it stand for a couple of hours.
When you serve it, don’t forget a dab of sour cream!

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