Borscht (борщ)

My aunt’s borscht is famous in our family. She makes it every Christmas; the brilliant red complements the holiday perfectly, in my opinion. She has spent many years honing and fine-tuning the recipe, which originated from one of her many cookbooks, and I finally took it upon myself to obtain this coveted family recipe.

She does add a secret ingredient, which can be substituted by another secret ingredient – both of which proved impossible to find at either Whole Foods or Safeway. I don’t think this recipe absolutely needs these things, so for now, her secret is safe with me.

Also, if you are like me and don’t own a car, it may be wise to either take multiple trips to the grocery store throughout the week or flag down a friend who can provide transportation. Root vegetables are heavy. My arms are sore from all the grocery-carrying.

And… last but not least… the amount of soup this generates could feed the Russian army, so feel free to halve the recipe. I should’ve. I had no idea.

Ingredients

1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
some butter or shortening (for sauteing)
2 small carrots or 1 large, peeled and sliced into small disks
1 peeled, diced turnip or parsnip
14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 pounds beets, cubed, making 5 cups
1 pound white, green, or red cabbage, shredded
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
2 quarts plus 2 cups chicken stock

Directions

Prepare all the ingredients as directed.

Heating the butter in a 10-12″ frying pan, saute the onion and garlic until they are limp and white. Add the carrots, turnip, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and vinegar to the pan and mix, then add 2 cups of stock to the frying pan.

Add the beets. Cover the pan and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the 2 quarts of stock to a boil, then add the shredded cabbage and diced potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes.

When the beets are ready, dump the entire contents of the pan into the stock. Simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes to combine flavors.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, sugar, and/or vinegar. Upon serving, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a bit of dill.

My aunt’s tips: Always make the soup at least 1 day ahead – the flavors need time to mingle. The taste should be slightly sweet. You can add a tiny bit of sugar if need be. The cabbage and carrots also add sweetness.

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