Baba’s Borscht

As a child, my family lived with my Ukrainian Grandmother a couple of years and borscht was a winter meal she made often. Traditional foods that have been around for hundreds of years are a traditional food for good reason; borscht is a perfect nourishing winter meal for our climate using local products. If you like beets you’ll love this borscht.

  • 2 osso bucco—beef shank pieces—bone in or a pound of stewing beef
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup plain apple cider vinegar or herb vinegar
  • 4 liters water
  • 3-6 beets depending on size, enough to make about 4 cups of bite-sized cubes
  • 4 medium sized potatoes
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 large onions
  • Half a head of a medium sized cabbage
  • Dried dill or fresh dill if you have it
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Sour cream or kefir

Combine broth ingredients in a large soup pot, bring to a boil then turn down to medium heat to simmer 6-8 hours.

–Peel and cube the beets. In a cooking pot, rinse the beet cubes and just cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer with the lid of the pot ajar on medium heat until tender, about 30 minutes. The standard procedure for peeling beets is to leave top and tail on and cook them in their skins to maintain the brilliant red color as well as hold nutrients in the vegetable. When beets are fully cooked the skin slips off with a light squeeze at one end and peeling is very easy. I don’t usually peel beets when raw except when making borscht. My Baba used the beet cooking water in the soup because it is so sweet and the nutrients and color that leach out, become part of the broth; I continue to use her method.

–Remove beef bones and meat from the broth and set aside to cool

–Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot. There should be 2-3 liters.

–Peel and cube the potatoes into bite-sized pieces

–Peel and dice both the carrots and onions, add to the broth and simmer 15 minutes.

–Finely shred the cabbage.

–Remove meat from the bones and chop up fine, discard bones or give them to man’s best friend to strengthen teeth and occupy them for a while.

–When the potatoes are tender, add the chopped meat, cooked beets with the cooking water and shredded cabbage; continue to simmer another 15 minutes.

–When the cabbage is limp, stir in a couple tablespoons of vinegar and taste. Continue to add vinegar a little at a time to your preference. The beets and cabbage are sweet winter vegetables balanced nicely with a little bit of sour.

–Add dill, salt and pepper for flavoring if desired and simmer a few more minutes before serving.

–Ladle into soup plates, add a dollop of sour cream or kefir and garnish with minced fresh dill.

A real winter meal in just one bowl.

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