Mystery seems to roll across the vast Russian landscape like a Siberian blanket of snow, spreading a dusting of enigma on nearly every aspect of life – including food. Or so is the case with Borshch, one of the great soups of the world that serves up its own culinary mystery in its seemingly endless varieties and different spellings.
Borscht. Borsch. Bortsch. Borstch. Borshtch. Borsh. Borshch.
But, what exactly is Borsch?
While “cultured” Americans are likely to spell it with a ‘t’ (Borscht) and describe it as “a beet soup served chilled”, with a little detective work we learned that during the long Russian winters, Borshch is served piping hot and is spelled without the ‘t’ (Borshch).
According to Darra Goldstein in her book, A Taste of Russia, there are well over a hundred varieties of the soup with as many as twenty different ingredients – the common ingredient, nevertheless, being beets.
“As a general rule,” she writes, “the farther west one goes, the more beets are added to the soup.”
Here at ATG, “around our culinary table”, our favorite version of Borshch is a Muscovite-style, which is tomato based with a little bit of beef. Below is the recipe from Goldstein’s A Taste of Russia. We hope you enjoy!*
You might also want to try THIS borsch from Mari Vanna!
Moscow-Style Beet Soup (Borshch)
1-2 lbs. (depending how much is desired) beef (sirloin or chuck roast)
9 cups water
3 medium beets, peeled and cut in half
Kosher salt to taste
2 medium potatoes (optional)
1 small carrot, grated
½ med. head of cabbage, shredded
1 ripe tomato, coarsely chopped (can use canned chopped tomato)
6 tbsp. tomato paste
Pepper to taste
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1 bay leaf
Simmer the meat in water for 30 minutes. Then add the beets and salt. Boil for 10 more minutes. Remove the beets from the broth and grate coarsely. Then return to the pot and add the remaining ingredients except bay leaf and sour cream. Simmer soup for about 1 & ½ hours, remove from heat and add the bay leaf. Let soup cool and chill overnight. The next day, skim off the fat and reheat. Serve with slices of meat and a dollop of sour cream in each bowl.
*Note: ATG made this recipe their own by searing the meat in small pieces in olive oil and butter and then adding to the already combined ingredients. We also adjusted seasonings, adding a little more sugar and adding a little lemon juice. We also added sautéed onions – about 1/2 medium sized onion – and did not include potatoes or cabbage in this batch.