Authentic Ukrainian Borshch
Contributed by Andrei Radchenko of Miami, who grew up and spent most of his young adult life in Kiev, this recipe for traditional borshch is marvelous...depending on whether you can locate true "borshch beets," which have whitish stripes inside when you cut them in half. Alas, no way to tell before you get them home, so you might want to talk to your grocer about it...or shop at a farmer's market and ask for a look. Andy says he's generally lucky 4 out of 5 times, which isn't bad. [NOTA BENE: Cathy, an alert reader, notes for you gardeners out that you can ALWAYS get it right--look in your best seed catalog for "Chioggia Beet," aka "candystripe beets" and grow your own borshch beets.] Also please note the spelling of the soup: Americans commonly see it spelled "borscht," but that's like pronouncing "whiskey" "viskey." Start early and plan to be home pretty much all day, while you keep feeding the pot. Serve this excellent soup hot to 8 for a first course--or make a meal of it with sourdough buns (pampooshkee) sauced with a garlic-oil and side dishes.
Drain the soaked beans and reserve. Place the pork ribs in a large pot with 3 quarts of cold water. Bring to a boil slowly and remove scum. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, reduce to a simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook for about 2 hours. When done, cut the meat off the bones, reserve, and discard the bones and vegetables.
To the strained broth, add the beets and beans, bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the beets are white and the beans tender.
In the vegetable oil, sweat the onion, celery, carrots, and optional green pepper and turnips over low heat until the onions are yellow. Scrape into the pot, simmer for a few minutes, then scrape in the optional tomatoes, potatoes, and spices, and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add the cabbage and simmer until it's the consistency you like--crunchy or soft.
In the meantime, chop the garlic, dill, and pork fat (or bacon) in the food processor, whisking in the yoghurt at the end.
When the cabbage is the way you like it, remove the red pepper, stir in the reserved pork, the catsup (or tomato paste), and the garlic-dill-fat mixture. Return the pot to a simmer, then cover the pot, turn the heat off, and let the flavors mingle for at least 30 minutes.
When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top each with a dollop of sour cream on top.
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READER COMMENTS--AND THEY'RE CONTROVERSIAL!
Former U.S. Congressman Bob Schaffer (R-Colorado), and 2002 co-chairman of the Ukrainian caucus, comments:
"Ukrainian Borshch: Add a teaspoon of liquid smoke (or more depending on taste). In the old country, Ukrainians smoked their meat to preserve it. Smoked meat was typically used in the soup, or used to produce the beef stock. The smokey taste has been lost in most modern recipies due to the advent of easier preservation methods. Once you try this, you'll never make borshch again without using liquid smoke or smoked meat. You'll enjoy borshch just the way the your great grandparents did."
Lilianna of Livonia, Michigan, says:There is an old Ukrainian saying that goes, "There are as many recipes for Borsch as
there are Ukrainian cooks". I have had Borsch prepared by Ukrainians or descendants
of Ukrainian emigrees on at least three continents. Even my mother's borsch would
rarely taste the same twice in a row. The only commonality was the presence of
beets. The rest depended on the occasion of the contents of the refrigerator. In
traditional Ukrainain cooking, if there are no beets then it is called white Borsch
and it is a regional variation. Some people add carrots, some add cabbage, some
add lima beans. A friend, visiting from Ukraine, was staying with us for a few days
and wanted to surprise me and made a pot of borsch while I was at work. She used a
can of baked beans because she couldn't find and "white beans" in my cupboard. It
was actually quite good. We never put in beans, and she could not imagine borsch
CAN'T WIN FOR LOSING:
A reader writes:
"I was born in Ukraine and this recipe as close to the true one as Constellation of Orion to Earth.
1. Ukranian bortsh is not done with beets. Russian bortsh is done with beets.
2. Either version is never cooked with beans.
3. Pork can be used, but for the real thing beef is a must. ( From culinary point of view pork just does not make a good stock )
4. The most important in cooking bortsh is technique which cannot be conveyed in writing, and not the ingredients.
5. The true taste cannot be reproduced anyway because vegetables in USA do not taste the same.
6. The myth that bortsh takes a long time was started by Russian Tea Room, so they can charge exorbitant prices to the Rich and Stupid. If one knows what one is doing, bortsh can be cooked under 2 hours. Actually, bortsh must be cooked under 2 hours, or the flavor of fresh vegetable is destroyed."
From Tamara, commenting:
grown up in the Ukraine and moved here in my twenties and the recipe that you have
online is exactly the one my mother and grandmother have been using and still use.
The fact is that everyone uses a different approach and technique to this dish-- and
it is just a stroke of luck that my family's recipe corralates with yours. To the
man/woman who got angry about it- get over it, your version is not the only one in
the universe and if people want to make the effort to make money out of it it's
Anyone else have an opinion on this?"