LITHUANIAN BORSCHT SOUP

By Donna Simons

Easy • Vegetarian (Vegan option in Chef notes)

Course: Lunch or Dinner Soup Course

Servings: 6

‘Borscht’, which has many variations, is any soup made with a sweet/sour beetroot base and can be served hot or cold. This simple tasty recipe is served cold with sour cream and potato, but my family used only beets and no starch at all. While it breaks Northeastern tradition to eat a cold soup in the winter, I think it’s a great way to utilize the last of the winter storage produce while looking ahead to the warm weather to come.

Aside from her fruit pies cooling on the windowsill, there is nothing that reminds me of my Eastern European Grandmother’s kitchen more than cold borscht soup. I’ve always loved borscht, perhaps because of the stunning deep magenta color or maybe it’s just an acquired taste — so bright, so sweet and sour, so full of contrast.

As a young child… I would sit on a stack of phone books in Grandma Sylvia’s kitchen – chin resting on the table – eyes aligned with the rim of the bowl of borscht in front of me. Using my spoon I would poke the cloud of white sour cream until the translucent magenta broth would become opaque bubblegum pink. The small beet squares would float and sink like little icebergs.

For me, Borscht is one of the simple comfort foods that could be as powerful as time travel. When I have the rare opportunity to have some, I am teleported back to Grandma Sylvia’s kitchen where my spoon can transform my bowl of soup in to a magical pink ocean with bright red icebergs almost too beautiful to eat.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs raw red beets
  • Juice of one lemon (or more if desired)
  • 2 TB Organic Sugar or Pound Ridge Organics honey
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream – optional
  • Parsley or Dill sprigs for garnish – optional
  • 1 large or 3 small boiled and cooled new potatoes per serving (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Wear clothes you don’t care about and for goodness sake put on some gloves unless you want to look like you just killed something seriously, this is important!
  2. Peel and dice the beets. Compost the peels and ends.
  3. Place the diced beets in a saucepot with 9 cups of water, salt and pepper
  4. Simmer for 1-1/2 hours.
  5. Carefully ladle about 8oz of finished broth into a glass spouted measuring cup and set aside.
  6. Let the remainder of the soup cool down to room temp, cover and refrigerate until cold. Of course if it’s cold enough outside, you can cool your soup pot outdoors.
  7. Dissolve sweetener in the 8oz cup of warm broth that you have set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. 2 TB of sweetener will probably be enough but I recommend adding extra – even twice that amount.
  8. Just before serving, add lemon juice to the pot of soup.
  9. Then add the sweetened beet juice ¼ cup at a time – taste in between each addition and stop at the point that you like the balance of sweet to sour. The surplus sweetened beet juice need not go to waste. Just put it in a sealed jar and incorporate it in to your morning smoothie or juice .
  10. If your soup is too chunky, you can remove some of the beet squares with a slotted spoon. The surplus can be used in a salad another day.

TO SERVE:

Ladle cold soup in bowls, place (1 large or three small) potatoes in each bowl and garnish with parsley or dill. The sour cream can be passed around for those who wish to add it.

CHEFS NOTES

  • Sour cream can be omitted and sugar chosen instead of honey to make this a Vegan dish.
  • Try using golden beets for a new twist on this classic.
  • Our family served Borscht without potatoes – but it’s delicious either way.
  • In the Northeast the first beet harvest begins in the summer — making Borscht a great summer option as well. However there is something so refreshing about adding this colorful cold tangy soup to a hot winter menu for texture and contrast.

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