Borscht: Enjoying Summer in the Dead of Winter
This post may contain affiliate links, including those from Amazon.com, which means we earn a small commission off your purchases. And here's the thing: We only mention services and products that we think are truly worth your attention, whether they're free, paid, or otherwise. This site relies on YOUR trust, so if we don't stand behind a product 110%, it's not mentioned. Period.
I love beets.
I love their full, earthy flavor.
I love their colors.
I love seeing the tops peek through the soil as they reach maturity.
But what I love even more is getting to eat beets in the middle of winter, when nothing colorful seems to exist.
Beets are a fantastic storage vegetable, which means it keeps well from the sweetness of summer into the darkness of winter. They're also packed with a nutritional punch, so they give us nutrients we desperately need in this darker time of year, including folate, manganese, potassium, and Vitamin C. The pigments that give them their vivid colors provide us with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, showing effectiveness in preventing heart disease, birth defects, and some cancers, especially colon cancer. ((The George Mateljan Foundation)) ((Nutrition Data))
And when beets are combined with cabbage and beef broth made from pastured beef bones, it's a particularly potent winter soup. Cabbage provides the important Vitamin K, as well as a very decent dose of Vitamin C, and the beef broth, laden with the “sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D, will warm both your body and your soul. (Vitamin D is essential is fighting away those winter blues!)
Borscht is a common Eastern European soup that has its regional variations in Poland, the Ukraine, Russia, and several other Baltic regions. This recipe is how we've come to like it in our house, but it's certainly open to variation should you choose – there are as many ways to prepare borscht as there are cooks!
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 – 2 cups finely shredded cabbage
2-3 large beets or 4-5 medium beets (about 1 1/2 lbs), trimmed, peeled, and finely grated
1 tablespoon raw sugar or honey
2 cups peeled, crushed tomatoes
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
4 cups beef stock
salt and pepper, to taste
Melt butter over medium-high heat in a medium stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the onion. Saute until the onion is wilted, then add the garlic and cabbage. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is wilted.
Stir the beets and honey into the cabbage and continue to saute for 1-2 minutes to slightly caramelize both the beets and the honey. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and broth, along with the salt and pepper if desired. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.
When the beets and cabbage are soft, the borscht is ready. You may serve it hot or chilled, pureed or straight from the pot. Personally, I like it it “as is” with the shredded beets and cabbage distinctly shredded when it's served hot, but I prefer it pureed if it's served cold. Again, totally up to you.
Slow Cooker Method
Melt butter over medium-high heat in a medium stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the onion. Saute until the onion is wilted, then add the garlic and cabbage. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is wilted. Add the honey and stir until the honey coats the cabbage.
Scrape the cabbage and onions into a 6-quart slow cooker and add remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours – if on low, this soup is very forgiving, so you can leave it for up to 8 hours if necessary.
When the beets and cabbage are soft, the borscht is ready. You may serve it hot or chilled, pureed or straight from the pot. As mentioned above, I like it it “as is” with the shredded beets and cabbage distinctly shredded when it's served hot, but I prefer it pureed if it's served cold.
To serve, top with sour cream and fresh dill fronds and serve with rustic dumplings or boiled potatoes. I also love it as a first course or a side on the holiday table at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
I found your post via Real Food Wednesday and added it to the bottom of my post: http://www.lonehomeranger.com/2012/01/beekman-cooking-challenge.html.
This soup looks wonderful! We discovered just in the last few years, via our veggie CSA, that we love the earthy flavor of beets. I have seen creamy borscht before, but I like the look of this clear broth. Is this a family recipe? I have family from Poland but a borscht recipe never made it to us. I love to make gwumpki, another Polish favorite: http://www.lonehomeranger.com/2011/08/yummy-little-pigeons.html
Thank you, Justine! Your cooking challenge looks fun!
I like the clear broth in this recipe too – that’s actually one of the reasons this version has become a favorite for me. If you want a creamy version. however, it’s pretty simple: just add a bit of sour cream and puree the whole thing with a stick blender. 🙂
Oh, and no, it’s not a family recipe (although it may become one!) I’ve just tweaked various recipes to come up with a version we liked.
Going to have to try this one – I’ve got some cabbage in my freezer … wonder if it would make much of a difference being frozen? I do love borscht though!
I’ve never made this with frozen cabbage, but typically if I’ve got produce that hasn’t faired the freezer well, I use them to make soup, so this might just be the perfect application for frozen cabbage. 🙂
Borsch is perfectly accompanied with pampushki (Russian donuts as the dictionary says:)) soaked with garlic. That’s how they eat it in Ukraine, the Motherland of borsch. And the broth for it is traditionally made of a marrowbone. And no vinegar! Tomatoes are sour enough.
I couldn’t but commented, sorry:) I am Russian and my Granny lived in Ukraine for 45 years, so, borsch is a frequent dish in our house.
Thanks, Anastasia! It’s always lovely to hear how people from different areas of the world make it. 🙂
I’m curious that you mention marrowbone. When I make beef broth, there’s typically at least one marrowbone in the batch of bones so that the marrow ends up in the stock – is that how you make a marrowbone broth, or do mean something more marrow-specific? I’m very intrigued.
I’ve just contacted my Mom for a genuine recipe:) I can either write it here or mail you if you are intetrested (it quite differs from the one you described).
If you have a piece of beef with a marrowbone in it this is ok. Marrowbone only was used during the deficit Soviet time, now people can also afford putting meat into the broth. Mom says a breast cut is also perfect for the borsch broth.
Yes, of course, feel free to type it here. It’s always lovely to see how different recipes compare. 🙂
And thanks for the clarification on your use of marrow!