Borscht

Borscht, or beet soup, has as many variations as there are people who make it, and is another regular in my soup rotation. Although usually associated with red beets, or beetroot as it’s called in other parts of the world, some borscht recipes don’t include beets at all! Shocking, I know. Those who say raisins are nature’s candy are wrong. Nature’s candy is beets.

borscht

A quick perusal of recipes online and in my own recipe books produces a variety of seasonings, ingredients, vegetarian and vegan options, and presentation. The ready availability of beets, cabbage, onions, and soup stock means it’s a great fall or winter option. Plus, it’s so pretty!

The very first batch of borscht I made years ago turned me off of it for years and I didn’t realize that I had the misfortune to try the one variety not to my taste – and is nothing like this one here! It also didn’t help that I made a vat of it and was stuck eating it for days. That unfortunate – or perhaps fortunate? experience taught me that I don’t like the versions I’ve tried that contain tomatoes. I prefer the texture of borchst where everything is julienned/shredded rather than puréed or cubed, but am willing to keep sampling because I love soup. 

This borscht is beautifully coloured, easy to make and adapt to a vegan or vegetarian version, on hand, quick to cook up, and makes for a tasty lunch or dinner. It’s particularly well-suited to make good use of leftovers from a pot roast, but can be easily made at any time with a few easy substitutions.

A few borscht prep notes:

  • I use my food processor’s grating/shredding attachment and do the cabbage, onions, and beets in it. Onions are fussy and sometimes work and other times get caught in the attachment, depending on what angle I feed them in at, so be prepared to fish out the bigger bits and chop them by hand.
shredded cabbage in food processor
  • Mushroom stock is my go-to soup stock, and I use it in all sorts of things where stock is called for. Mushroom stock, or broth,  adds a wonderful earthy depth to the flavour and has more to it than beef stock. Look for it in the soup section in tetra-packs of soups in 1L (quart) cartons.
  • If you have never worked with beets before prepare yourself for the staining power of beet juice. I am careful to wipe it up immediately from my ridiculous white quartz countertops, and it scrubs off my hands and wooden cutting boards pretty quickly. I would not wear white while working with beets. It’s true that eating beets will cause some bodily fluids to turn pinkish for a while afterwards (even breastmilk…fun fact for the day). Do not be alarmed, it goes away.

Borscht Ingredients

IngredientAdaptation Note
1 Tbsp butterUse olive or grapeseed oil for vegan borscht
1 cup shredded cabbageRed or green, doesn’t matter
¾ lb onions, finely chopped or shreddedApproximately 3 medium onions
3 ½ cups mushroom stock or beef stockSubstitute mushroom broth instead for vegetarian borscht
1 cup pot roast gravySubstitute extra stock instead if you haven’t just made pot roast
1 lb beets, peeled, stems trimmed, shreddedApproximately 3 tennis ball-sized beets
2 cups shredded or cubed pot roastOmit for vegetarian borscht
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill plus a  pinch more for garnish2 tsp dried dill
Sour cream for garnishPlain yogurt or non-dairy sour cream or yogurt

Method:

On medium-low heat melt butter (or heat oil) in a large soup pot. Then, add shredded cabbage and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally. Add a splash of liquid (water, or some of your stock) if the cabbage starts to stick, and keep stirring. Add onions, beets, broth, gravy (or more broth), roast if using, and vinegar. Simmer on low heat until all vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in dill, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, sprinkle with more dill for dramatic effect, and enjoy!

borscht recipe
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Jen Shapka

A mom of two, military spouse, domestic engineer, and former teacher (B.Sc., B.Ed.), she has always found herself in the education field but rarely in the classroom.

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