Borsch is a traditional Ukrainian soup made with beets, cabbage, carrots and other vegetables. Being originally from Ukraine, I have had various different versions of borsch. Although I was born and raised there, I can’t claim that this is an “authentic” recipe. This is a variation of my family recipe, but borsch is different is every region of Ukraine. It always tastes amazing though and you should definitely try it. It has lots of vegetables and is relatively easy to make, especially if you use the packaged stock. What’s also great about it is that it tastes better on the second and even third day, so you can make it in advance.
My favorite borsch is made with beef stock, but you can use your favorite stock, including chicken or vegetable (for a lighter, vegetarian version). Use some meat with bones for the stock as bones add more flavor. I don’t cook borsch very often and when I do, I usually make the beef stock myself. It’s really not that difficult – yes, it does take several hours to make it, but you don’t do much during these hours, all you need to do is to check it from time to time and add more water as it evaporates. Plus, you can make the stock in advance and refrigerate it for a couple of days. If it still sounds too difficult, just use the packaged stock, the borsch will still taste amazing!
For the beef stock:
1 lbs beef back ribs (bone-in)
1 .5 lbs beef chuck stew meet
3-4 bay leaves
12 cups water (plus additional water to add as it evaporates)
2 large yukon gold potatoes (peeled)
1/2 medium cabbage (tough outer leaves removed)
3 small beet roots
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
Fresh dill (bunch), finely chopped
3-4 springs green onion, chopped
3 teaspoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice
About 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Make the stock. Wash the beef in cold water and pet dry it with paper towels. Fill a large pot with water (about 12 cups) and add the beef ribs, salt and bay leaves. Bring to boil on medium heat, lower the heat and boil the ribs for approximately 2 hours. Add boneless beef pieces and boil for another hour. Add more water to fill the pot as it evaporates. Bring to a final boil and turn the heat off. Take the meat out of the stock and let it cool.
Note that you will need to collect the brownish foam appearing on top, so the stock remains light and clear. You need to do this throughout the cooking process.
Once the beef cooled down, remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones. Chop the rest of the meat so it almost looks like pulled pork.
Cube the peeled potatoes and add the chopped meat and potatoes back to the pot and keep boiling on low heat.
2. Prepare the rest of the vegetables. Using the cheese grater, grate peeled carrots and beet roots with the large grater side (the one you use for grating cheese). Shred the cabbage, chop onion and garlic.
3. Heat the large skillet on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add the garlic and onion and cook stirring for 3 minutes until the onion becomes lightly gold. Add the carrots and more oil if the vegetables look dry. Cook for another few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beets and tomato paste, stir well and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle the vegetables with flour and crushed red pepper and stir thoroughly.
4. Add the vegetables to the pot. Add the lemon juice and taste for salt. Add more salt if needed. Bring to boil and check the potatoes. When the potatoes are soft when cut with the fork, add the cabbage and boil on low heat for another 10 minutes. Again, don’t forget to remove the unattractive foam on top throughout the process.
5. Add the chopped dill and green onion, stir, bring to boil and turn the heat off. Let the borsch rest for about one hour and serve with a dollop of sour cream (or cream fraiche) and bread. You can serve it right away, but it will become much more flavorful after it’s rested. In my opinion, the borsch tastes the best on the second day. You can refrigerate it for up to 3 days or freeze it. Smachnogo! (Bon Appetit! in Ukrainian :)