When talking about Ukrainian cuisine, the borscht is the first dish to mention. It’s the most widespread Ukrainian dish. It is cooked in each family in Ukraine, but each hostess cooks it her own special way. Here is the recipe of borscht as it’s cooked in my family. We did not make it often, but when I took Russian in the University and U.C.S.C my language professor practiced full immersion.  That meant Borscht at his home and a comment upon my language abilities shown below!

6 oz. of meat with beef rib bones
1 big onion
1 beetroot
1 large or 2 small carrots
1-2 oz. of pork fat
half a lemon
1-2 tbsp of tomato paste
3or 4 large potatoes
6 oz. of cabbage
bay leaf  (I question this!)
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the meat for the stock. Chop the onion. Grate or shred the beetroot. Grate carrots. Melt some fat on a frying pan. Cut the pork fat into very small pieces and fry it until it becomes golden in color. Add onions to the frying pan, fry it until they get golden. Add carrots, when they get soft, add beetroot. Sprinkle juice of half a lemon onto the mixture. Add tomato paste to the frying pan. Fry the mixture for a while. Add a little stock, pepper, bay leaf. Set the heat to the minimum cover with a lid and simmer for a while.

Put the beef out of stock. Pour the stock into a big pot. Put into the pot the peeled potatoes, cut into big pieces.
Shred the cabbage. When the stock with potatoes boils put the cabbage into the pot. Add salt.
Separate the meat from the bones, and put it back to the pot. When the potatoes are ready (i.e. soft, boiled), turn off the frying pan and put its contents into the pot. Add a bay leaf, black pepper. Turn off the heat.
When serving put some sour cream and crushed garlic into a plate.

 I of course changed it.

 HOT BORSCHT by Herb Senft

I would add a few observations on this recipe. It is good and the addition of chili peppers does little to change the essential Borscht flavor. I even added 1/4 tsp. of red pepper and found no heat to this recipe. I do strongly recommend and prefer blending the soup in a blender. Borscht is most wonderful the day after when cold. Also be generous with the sour cream dollops. I put in two per large soup bowl. Choice of vinegar also makes a difference, I used Balsamic.  Most purists use Cider! (Variations include using bacon to saute the vegetables. I used four strips and even added a grated parsnip. This is okay, one stalk of celery and a bay leaf are also used. This from a long internship as a failed Russian language student. Discard the Bay leaf. Refrigerate! Keeps well. Great with homemade bread.

If you  use meat (beef brisket, cut into 1 inch chunks), simmer the vegetables and meat for 2 hours instead of the hour I used.  Add the cabbage and vinegar last.

“You speak Russian like a Kraut.” Seems I had a German accent that came out in the Russian.”  One of the few courses that would become an ‘incomplete.” It was Stalingrad all over again. Out of his rifle sight I might add … He was often  a few beets short of a pot of good borsht.

(C) Herb Senft

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