When I finally moved to Moscow in 2009, my specialty was chicken quesadillas. I thought I was a great cook… Enter my mother-in-law. She is an excellent cook. She doesn’t use recipes at all and she cooks every meal from scratch. It’s almost like muscle memory. A splash of this, a dash of that, a handful of flower and viola!… An amazing meal. However, eating her meals versus replicating her meals are two very different things. I would try to shadow her in the kitchen and take notes on how to make these dishes. This might sound simple, but she made the same dishes differently every time! Sometimes she used ketchup, sometimes no ketchup… sometimes she added tomato, sometimes no tomato… I honestly thought she was messing with me! Anyways, after watching her make borsch a couple times and after enjoying the traditionally Ukrainian soup at every restaurant, I decided to try it on my own.
Beets are not something that I remember every eating before moving to Russia. Actually purchasing them at the store was a bit of a challenge for me. I didn’t know how to pick them, what color to get, what size was best, etc. Plus, they are always so leafy and dirty… I didn’t want to make a mess 😉 So, needless to say, my first attempt at borsch turned into my own specialty… white borsch. Now, unless you are a moron like me…. This is not a real thing. And the numerous Russians that my husband shared this story with will forever think I am a complete idiot for even attempting borsch without beets. I thought it was being innovative 😉
Well…. after actually purchasing some beets and making a few more attempts at the soup, I finally received my husband’s approval. Traditionally, Ukrainian borsch is cooked in a stock of bacon fat. This sounds kinda good if you like bacon as much as I do…. But this is not American bacon. Russians have yet to grasp the concept (AKA- the amazingness) of bacon and so this wanna-be bacon fat, called salo (сало), could not be more disgusting (in my opinion). My husband, and most Russians for that matter, will eat this “bacon” cooked, frozen, or sliced raw with a piece of bread and a sliver of raw garlic… Aaannnd I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Anyways, my borsch is not perfectly traditional. I find Ukrainian borsch to be far too tangy. My version of borsch is a deliciously beefy and beety delight 😉
I use a hearty serving of beef bones in order to achieve a rich beef stock. Simmering these bones allows for a rich and flavorful beef stock to set the stage for the fresh ingredients that make up the borsch soup. The veggies you use are very important. I have yet to make borsch in America that compares with the borsch I make in Russia. The veggies are just not the same. In order to counteract this, try to buy organic, or if you have a dad that grows his own amazing produce in his garden… then you are lucky like me! 🙂 … steal some at night when he’s sleeping! (Just kidding, anytime we are in town he gives us bags and bags of fresh produce!) Fresh veggies will help to build a strong flavor for your soup. When I can’t get fresh, quality veggies, I am forced to add a bit of veggie stock to bolster the flavor. Probably not the healthiest option, but it’s a tasty one 😉
Things to keep in mind:
Beets stain everything! For some reason every time I decide to make borsch I am wearing something white. It will stain. They will also stain your hands so if you have acrylic nails, like I use to, don’t make borsch! The beets and the carrots will stain the nails and get underneath them… not pretty.
Ok… well that’s shocking… I usually have more mistakes to mention. I’m sure I will come up with more, but for now, enjoy the recipe!
Oh I almost forgot… I really don’t know how the English translation of “борщ” turned into BORSCHT. Its very strange because in Russian it is literally pronounced “borsh”… Where is the “T” at the end?… nowhere, because it doesn’t end in a “T”! But I had to add it to my title because everyone out there searching for a borsch recipe search for “borscht.” Anyways, just one of many things that irritates me 😉
For more help, check out my Youtube channel and watch the Tasty Mistakes Borsch How-To video! 🙂
2 32 oz. beef broth*
6 c. water
2-3 beef bones
1 large onion
3 small beets
1/4 green cabbage
3-5 baby dill pickles*
1/4 red bell pepper*
1 small diced tomato*
1 garlic clove (minced)
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. paprika*
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
pinch black pepper
2 tbsp. Ketchup
1/4 c. oil
Sour cream for garnish
Chopped fresh dill and/or parsley for garnish
1 tbsp beef and veggie bouillon*
- Using a large pot, bring the beef broth* and water to a boil. While the broth boils, slice the cabbage into thin slivers and dice the potatoes into chunks. Add the sliced cabbage, diced potatoes, beef bones, and bay leaves to the broth and continue to boil for 30 minutes. While the broth is boiling, prepare the beet mixture.
- Peel the beets, carrots, and onion and slice them into matchsticks or slivers. Then dice the bell pepper*, tomato*, and pickles*.
- Heat the oil on high in a large saucepan. Add the beets, carrots, and onion and fry until the carrots and beets are tender.
- Once tender, add the bell pepper*, tomato*, pickles*, ketchup, minced garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and salt & pepper. Combine and fry for 2-3 more minutes.
- Pour the beet mixture into the broth and stir to combine.
- Cover and let cook on low heat for 30 minutes to an hour. Serve hot with a big dollop (or two!) of sour cream. Enjoy!