It’s winter in North Carolina and though we may not have snow very often, it does get cold and when the humidity is hovering in the high 80% range and the temperature is in the low 30’s the chill seeps deep into your home and has a knack for finding its way to your bones. It’s around this time that my wife often announces that it’s time for Borscht! A dish from Eastern Europe or Russia that can be made 100 different ways and pronounced at least two different ways. My wife says it with a silent t as per her Russian instruction and I with a harder T at the end as my Polish ancestry has passed down to me through some method I’m not really aware of.
No matter how you prepare it, or how you pronounce it, it’s pretty much always going to have beets and potatoes in it. You can leave the meat out for a vegetarian soup, or pick a different meat to suit your larder, your mood or your budget. The recipe here is a pretty standard version found across multiple countries and some variation of it is how we usually make it ourselves.
Total time: 3 hours 45 minutes
2 pounds beef shin with bone, cut across in 2-inch pieces
1 small onion with skin, cut in half
2 medium carrots, peeled; 1 quartered, 1 grated
3 medium red beets, scrubbed well
6 tablespoons tomato paste
4 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 pound red cabbage, shredded
2 medium tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped 1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound firm potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and cooked in boiling salted water until tender
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped dill
For the garnish:
1. In a medium saucepan, cover the beef with 6 cups water. Stir in the onion and quartered carrot. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam and fat that rises to the surface. Lower the heat, and simmer gently for 1 hour 30 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, and measure the liquid; there should be about 4 1/2 cups. Reserve the liquid and the meat.
2. Return the beef and strained liquid to the pan. Bring to a boil. Add the beets, and return to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the tip of a knife easily pierces the beets. Remove the beets, and allow to cool slightly. Peel them, and grate coarsely. Return the grated beets to the soup.
3. Dissolve the tomato paste in 1/2 cup of the soup, and stir back into the pot. Stir in the garlic, grated carrot, cabbage, tomatoes, bay leaf, vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
4. Add the cubed potatoes, salt, pepper and the 1/3 cup dill. Simmer till potatoes are soft.
5. Ladle in the soup. Top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of dill.
Recipe by Barbara Kafka https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/6910-winter-borscht