There are as many recipes for Borsch as there are families in Eastern Europe. The country, region, religion, socioeconomic status and time of year determine how a family prepares their recipe.
There are red, green, and white
There are Lenten varieties, vegetarian varieties and many different ways to infuse the quintessential sour element to the soup.
The Origins of Borsch
Borsch, the iconic Russian soup with its signature fuchsia hue, actually originated in Ukraine. The humble peasant soup that made its way all the way up the socioeconomic ladder to the gilded tables of Tsar Alexander II. There is much folklore from all over eastern Europe of how the favorite soup came to be, one account drastically different from the next.
It’s important to note that the original Borsch recipes going back to the 16th century did not resemble the soup we eat today.
It is, however, generally agreed upon that contemporary Borsch, the pretty fuchsia one, originated somewhere in the area of Ukraine in the 18th century.
Making Borsch is a multi-step process that has carried over from the days of the PECHKA, a Russian stone mason oven of the 12th century that continues its use even today. Meat broth would be cooked first, and the vegetables were braised separately before adding to the soup so that everything would be perfectly tender at the same time. The addition of pre-cooked vegetables to the broth is called Zapravka, this unique method separates Borsch into its own category of soups. Whether or not the Borsch is an actual soup or a technique is an argument in and of itself.
Flavor and Quality
The most essential element of Red Winter Borsch ( the pretty fuchsia one)is the balance of sweet and sour.
Today Hogweed is no longer used in the preparation of Borsch, the sweetness instead comes from carrots, beets, and table sugar.
The sourness happens in a variety of way, this is up to the cook and will depend on heritage or personal preference. Kvass, Pickled Beets, Lemon Juice, Citric Acid, Vinegar and even sour cherries have all been used in the past to give Borsch its unique acidic flavor.
In my family, my Ukrainian grandmother uses sour cherries in her Borsch, while my Russian grandmother uses Lemon Juice.
Borsch is a very thick and hearty soup, the Russian measurement of quality is to stand a spoon straight up in the cup. If the spoon stands on its own, it’s quality Borsch. This soup can feed an army for a minimal cost and is a favorite of the Russian Navy.
Our Family Recipe
This recipe is my grandmother’s. It has been slightly adapted by my mother and then adapted somewhat by me and will most likely be adapted somewhat by my own daughter in a few more years.
PS. Little girls love the “Pink Soup.”
I did my college internship at the food network in Chelsea Market NY Manhattan. I once made this soup for them, and they ate the entire 3-gallon pot in one afternoon. People were coming up for second’s and thirds, and my heart swelled with pride for my family and my heritage.
The talk of the week was Anna’s Borsch and for many weeks after some of the crew would ask when I would be making it again. I was so happy that our humble Borsch brought them so much joy that I almost gave the recipe away to Food Network Kitchen to publish. I was encouraged not to by a mentor, and I’m happy I took his advice because I get to tell its story now, on my own blog.
I hope you enjoy this heirloom family recipe. I feel so happy and privileged to be welcomed into your home and to have the opportunity to share a part of my heritage with you and your family. If you would like to try, some other Ukrainian recipes check out my Stuffed Cabbage Rolls recipe.
The recipe yields 1 gallon and can feed up to 12 people for only $15.29 or $1.28 per serving.
Ukrainian Winter Borsch
- 4 Quarts Prepared broth
- 2 Each Carrots Shredded (4oz)
- 1 Each Beet w/tops Julienned (10oz)
- 1 Cup Beet Greens Chopped
- 1 Each small onion Diced (3oz)
- 2 cloves garlic Minced
- 1 clove garlic Crushed
- 1 each Medium Tomato Grated
- 2 C Julienned cabbage
- 1 Each Red bell pepper Julienned
- 2 Each Medium Yukon gold potatoes Diced
- 1/2 Each Lemon Juiced
- 1 Tbsp sugar + more to finish
- 4 tsp salt + more to finish
- 1/4 Cup parsley Chopped
- 1/4 Cup dill Chopped
- 2 Each sprigs thyme Chopped
- TT Sour cream Garnish
- 1 Gallon Q Water
- 2 Pound Pork loin country style rib bone in Cut into chunks or pork ribs
- 1 Cup White beans Soaked
- 1 Each Carrot Peeled
- 1 Each Small yellow onion Skin on
- 1 Each Bay leaf
- 6 Each Sprig of parsley
Prepare broth by first blanching the pork ribs. Cover ribs with 1 inch of water and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling remove from heat, drain and rinse the ribs.
To a large stock pot add, 5Q cold water, blanched bones, 1 peeled carrot, 1 small onion (skin on), 1 bay leaves, 4 sprigs of parsley( leaves and stems) and bring to a simmer slowly and continue to simmer for 30min.
Drain the white beans and add to the pot, continue to simmer another 30 or until the beans are tender.
Season with 3t of salt.
Add diced potatoes cook for 15min.
Meanwhile, as the broth is simmering. Prep the vegetables. Add the juice of 1 lemon to the julienned beets and set aside.
To a skillet add 1T of olive oil and diced onion. Sweat over medium low heat until the onions are translucent. About 10 minutes.
Add the minced garlic and cook just until the raw smell is gone. About 1 minute.
Next add the grated tomato and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Add carrots and continue to cook another 2 min stirring frequently to prevent browning.
Add beets and cook 4 more minutes. Be careful not to overcook the vegetables. They should still have a slight bite. .
Add beet greens and cabbage to the stock pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling add beet mixture and reduce to a simmer.
Crush 1 clove of garlic into a paste and add to pot. Add 1 large sprig of thyme and simmer an additional 20min.
To finish, season with salt, pepper, and sugar.
Turn off the heat. Sprinkle heavily with chopped parsley and dill. The entire top of the soup should be covered with a thin layer of herbs. Cover with lid and steep for 1 min.
Serve piping hot with a dollop of sour cream and a thick piece of dark dye bread rubbed with garlic.
Borsch is alway’s better the next day once it’s had a chance to steap.
Make sure you save some for left overs.