We’ve all heard of borsch, and it may be the first food that foreigners associate when thinking of Slavic or Eastern European cuisine. Borsch is originally a Ukrainian concept, so here we will spell it without the English ‘t’ at the end (it is spelled ‘borscht’ in English, after we borrowed it from Yiddish); it is considered also to be the national dish of Ukraine.
Borsch, a soup with a beet base, has been around for hundreds of years, dating back to Medieval times. It was a food for the working class and poor, since the starch and other components were cheap and accessible; you would never see this served at a royal dinner back then. There are innumerable recipes for borscht throughout the world, and so I will add one more, though it is meant to be as close to the authentic and traditional recipe from years past as possible; some of the recipe is derived from an 1861 Russian cookbook, Classic Russian Cooking: Elena Molokhovets’ A Gift to Young Housewives, by the author named in the title, and the rest is a modern-day variation or adaptation.
- 3 qts (2.83 l) water
- 3 lbs beef or pork or combination
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 beets, grated (not pickled!)
- 3 potatoes, chopped
- 3 carrots, grated
- 1 head cabbage, shredded
- 2 tbsp vinegar
- 1 bunch parsley, diced
- Pork fat (optional)
- Make a meat broth with the water and beef and/or pork.
- Add the vinegar and diced onions to meat broth.
- Prepare the beets by boiling them whole in a separate pot for about an hour. After that, immerse in cold water, grate them, and set aside for later.
- Cook whole potatoes, carrots, and head of cabbage for about half an hour or less.
- Shred the cabbage, chop the carrots and potatoes.
- Mix all together, with the grated beets from before, and add the diced parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top, and enjoy!
As Elena stated in her book over 150 years ago, "the borshch may also be served with fried buckwheat kasha, pancake pie with beef stuffing, or plain pancakes."
For the most authentic version, you can sauté the beets, onion, and carrots in the pork fat before combining; this is the traditional way but adds quite a bit of calories.