Borscht for Supper
by Julie Gale
(February 20, 2004) Soup is definitely my favorite category of food, even more than the most decadent dessert. I could happily have soup every day. As the mother of four children whose ages range from twenty-one down to seven, it is a real challenge to find a soup or even an entrée that appeals to all of them. Aside from matzo ball or chicken noodle soup, the one soup that always brings everyone home for supper is my beef and vegetable borscht. I grant you that I have to remove the beets for one and the meat for another, but it is an entire meal in a bowl that is always on the top of their request list.
There are many kinds of borscht: hot and cold, Russian, Polish and Ukrainian, those with beet only and those with all kinds of meat and any vegetable that happens to be hiding in the back of the vegetable bin. The seasoning in my version of the soup is classic Eastern European Jewish because it has a distinct sweet and sour taste that requires a real balance of brown sugar and sour salt, or lemon juice. As diverse as the ingredients for the soup are, so are the garnishes; sour cream, a boiled potato, a sprinkling of fresh dill or whatever your bubbie or grandma used is just fine.
BEEF AND VEGETABLE BORSCHT
2 lbs. soup beef (flanken, shin, ribs, or brisket)
2 lbs. beef bones
1 onion, diced
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
8 cups water
3 beets, washed, unpeeled and trimmed with one inch of greens left on
5 new potatoes, unpeeled and cubed
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1/2 green pepper, cubed
1/2 red pepper, cubed
1 28 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
1 small cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 dill sprigs
3 Tbs. brown sugar ( or more to taste)
1 tsp. sour salt (citric acid) or 1 Tbs. lemon juice (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauteée the meat, bones, and onion in the oil until lightly browned. Cover with water; add more water if needed to cover the meat. Add the beets. Bring to a boil skimming off any foam that surfaces. Simmer for one hour.
Remove beets and allow to cool. Rub the skin off the beets and slice them. Add all the vegetables and 1 sprig of dill, and simmer for 1 hour. Add the brown sugar, sour salt (or lemon juice) and salt and pepper.
Simmer ½ hour and taste for extra seasoning. Remove meat and bones. Dice meat and return to pot, adding more water, if necessary. Refrigerate overnight, if possible and remove any fat on surface of soup. Reheat, taste for seasoning and garnish with remaining dill. This soup freezes very well. Serves at least 4-6.