Borscht is a typical soup from Russia and the Ukraine. It’s commonly made with beets, cabbage, and other vegetables. Traditionally it contains meat, but this is a vegetarian version taken from the Doukhobor community.
Doukhobors are a group of spiritualists who emigrated to Canada after being exiled by the Russian government in the late 1800’s. Due to their pacifistic beliefs, traditional Doukhobor cooking is vegetarian, but it does, however, contain a relatively large amount of butter and cream. I imagine this was to keep the weight on so they would not freeze in the cold Russian and Canadian winters.
This is a much lighter version of the original soup; the fat content of the cream used in this recipe has been cut down from 35% to only 10%. It could be made with even less butter and cream, but then it is no longer Doukhobor style! Enjoy the richness of this borscht; it’s a delicious adaptation from typical Russian borscht.
You will need a very large bowl, a large soup pot (8-10L), a second pot (2-4L), and at least one large pan for this recipe. It takes some time to make good borscht; this is not a quick meal plan, so it’s nice to make a large batch and save some for later. This recipe makes 7-8L of borscht.
- 4L water
- 1 medium beet, peeled and quartered
- 6 medium red potatoes, peeled (3 quartered, 3 diced)
- 3 carrots (1 grated, 2 diced)
- 3 onions (2 diced, 1 for processing)
- 2 green peppers (1 diced, 1 for processing)
- 1 small head of cabbage, finely shredded
- 1L stewed tomatoes or canned whole tomatoes
- 2 cups 10% cream (often called “half and half” cream)
- 3/4 cup butter
- 6 Tbsp fresh dill
- 3+Tbsp salt
- black pepper to taste
Prepare the vegetables. Peel and quarter the beet and 3 of the potatoes. Dice the 3 remaining potatoes, 2 carrots, 1 onion, and 1 green pepper. Grate or finely shred the cabbage. Set the vegetables aside.
Place the quartered beet and the quartered potatoes in a large soup pot with 4L of water. Bring to boil, reduce heat slightly and let cook until vegetables are tender.
Once the potatoes are tender, remove from the water and mash in a large bowl. Add ¼ cup of butter, 4Tbsp dill, 1Tbsp salt, and black pepper to taste. Warm the cream, and stir into the potatoes (make sure to warm the cream first; otherwise it may curdle when added to the potatoes). Set this mixture aside.
When the beet is tender, remove from the water and set aside to cool. Grate the beet once it has cooled. Leave the water in the pot; this is the base for the borscht.
In a separate pot, pour in the stewed tomatoes. Add 1 grated carrot and the grated beet.
Place 1 onion and 1 green pepper in a food processor until coarsely processed (alternatively, you can chop them finely by hand). Add this onion and green pepper to the tomatoes, along with ¼ cup of butter, 1Tbsp salt, and pepper to taste. Cook over medium-high heat until vegetables are tender. Stir this tomato mixture into the bowl with the mashed potatoes and cream, then set aside.
Add the diced potatoes and carrots to the soup pot with the water which had the beets and potatoes in it. Cook over medium-high until vegetables are tender. Once tender, put the temperature to low until all of the other ingredients have been added.
Place the shredded cabbage in a separate pot with water. Boil the cabbage until tender (cooking the cabbage first gets rid of the gas-producing components in the cabbage, you can skip this step, but you may regret it later). Strain the cabbage and place in a pan with 2Tbsp of butter, fry lightly. Add to the soup pot.
Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a frying pan and saute the diced onion and green pepper over med-high heat. Once tender, add to the soup pot.
Slowly add the potato, cream, and tomato mixture to the soup pot. You can use a cup or a large ladle to transfer it without making splashes.
Add 2 Tbsp of dill, and salt and pepper to taste.
Now all the ingredients should be in the soup pot. Bring to a boil then remove from the heat. You’re finished! Leave the borscht uncovered in the pot.
Borscht can be served immediately, or be left for a while to allow flavors to go through.
Extra borscht should be placed in glass jars while it is still hot. To seal the jars, make sure the mouth of the jar is clean, boil sealable lids in water, then place the lids on the jars. Once the jars have sealed, the borscht will keep in the fridge for up to 3 months. Storing borscht in this way is a much better alternative to freezing, as freezing will alter the consistency.
Serve borscht with fresh fluffy bread (generously buttered, of course) and slices of cheddar cheese on the side. You can let the cheese slices melt in the borscht for added tastiness! This may not be the traditional way of eating it, but it’s how it was served in my childhood, so I can’t have it any other way.
This recipe and many other delicious borscht recipes are published in The World of Russian Borsch, by Nikolai Burlakoff.