Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Borsch is Ukrainian in origin, but it is also well known and eaten in other countries of the former Soviet bloc, including Russia. As with many Russian and Ukrainian dishes, there is no one correct recipe for Borsch. The recipe varies by region, and then by family.


To pronounce the word Borsch, say "bohr" and then make an abrupt "shh" sound. Although common English transliteration is Borscht, there is actually no T or T sound in the Russian/Ukrainian word борщ.

Borsch is a hearty, filling, vegetable-rich soup. The broth is usually pork or beef based. Beets are an essential ingredient to borsch and are what gives borsch its rich red color. Although there is such a thing as green borsch (more on that later).

Meat selected for the broth can be inexpensive, and it should be on the bone. My selection of meat for borsch has varied depending on what's available and what's cheap. My past borsches have been made with beef ribs, pork ribs, ox tails, pork neck bones, etc. But stay away from pork meat with skin as it will ruin the taste.

Although I typically use ordinary green cabbage for the borsch, this time I made it with a red cabbage. I noticed that it gave the soup a richer, deeper burgundy color.


(Serves 8)

You will need:
1 1/2 lb pork or beef on the bone
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 parsnip, peeled and grated
1/2 head of small cabbage, shredded
2 red potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 small beets, peeled and grated
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 small white onion, peeled and chopped
2 med. tomatoes, blanched and skins removed, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Bay leaf, a few pepper corns, and other herbs (e.g. marjoram, sage, oregano)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill, parsley and scallion or chives
Sour cream (if desired)

1. Place the meat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Pour off the water and rinse the meat. With the meat still in the pot, fill it with cold water again, about two-thirds full, and bring to a boil on medium-high heat.

2. Once the water is boiling, add carrots, parsnip, cabbage and potatoes. Wait for the soup to start simmering and add beets and celery. You should instantly see the beets color the soup a deep red. Wait for the soup to simmer once more, then add onion, tomatoes and bell pepper. Squeeze the lemon into the soup and stir with a wooden spoon. When the soup starts simmering again, add bay leaf, pepper corns, other herbs you have on hand and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Partially cover the soup and simmer on low heat for about one hour. Taste and reseason if needed. Turn off the heat and let stand for about fifteen minutes. The color will deepen as the soup rests. Serve hot, with dollop of sour cream, sprinkled with fresh parsley, dill and scallion.


  1. I have tons of beets from my CSA so I'm going to give this a whirl. How essential is the cabbage? That I don't have. (I do have lots of beet greens that I wilted down last night). I imagine the beets are the key and it's probably meant to be a recipe that can be adapted to everything.

  2. Sara, I would say go with what you have. In my family we've almost always used cabbage (I guess partly because it's cheap and adds a lot of volume in terms of veggies). The soup is meant to have a lot of veggies in it, so if you don't have cabbage I'd use other vegetables to make up the volume. You can also try kale instead of cabbage. And yes, beets are the key! Let me know how it turns out!



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