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The key is a BIG pot. Really BIG pot. And really good beets. If you have beets with beet leaves attached, that's even better!
Make a bone broth by browning good 3-5 lbs of soup bones with copious meat on them and lot of bone marrow inside, YUM. If there is not enough meat on a bone, make sure to add a couple of pounds of browned stewing beef. Then throw them in the BIG pot, cover with boiling water from a kettle (to fill up the pot) and put on a low heat, do not let boil and skim the yukies till the foaming stops. Then put on low (right at slow simmer) and let it start thinking about life and stuff.
Meanwhile, prepare a herb pouch. I tie into a cheese cloth about a tbsp of black peppercorns, same amount of coriander seeds, a red chilly pepper and a couple of stalks and leaves of celery and 4-6 bay leaves, a few cloves of garlic. I do not bother with carrots at this stage, but I cut a medium onion in half, and bury the pouch and the onion under bones.
In about 2-3 hours once meat starts falling off the bone, I take the meat out, foil it up, and leave everything else on the warming zone of the stove overnight or over-day if I intend to have bortsh for supper.
When the broth is ready, drain via colander, get marrow from the bones and add to the meat pile, discard bones, squish the spice bag with a back of the spoon to get the best flavor. Chill and skim off fat if desired.
Next, the veggie stage. The amount of veggies and meat should make the bortch that is very thick, so nobody ends up chasing a cabbage thread in a sea of broth.
About 1/3 head of the green cabbage fine slice, the finer the better but long... 2-3 stalks of celery (this replaces parsley root that we use back home), 2-3 carrots, 1 small onion, and 1 meaty red pepper. Normal bortsch would also use white potatoes, but after taking them out I like potato-less version better!
Chop up cabbages and peppers, put into the pot, slow fire. Meanwhile, sweat onions, celery and carrots with fat of your choice, add to the pot once they smell really good.
Then, to the queen of the bortsh: 3 to 4 medium beets (heck, add five if you have room!), the bestest, the sweeter they taste, the better! Peel, and dice about 1/4 inch, and here comes the timing thing. Have diced beets on the board ready to make the dive and a bottle of your favorite vinegar on hand (I don't recommend balzamic, it spoils color, but I love raspberry red wine). Dump beets in and follow up with 1 to 3 tbsp of vingar right on the beets, and mix it in. If using plain white vinegar, I'd throw in a tbsp of brown sugar. Mix well, and you will see that beet red color. It may go into brown-er shade as it cooks, but it will get restored back to beet-red once it chills (LATER).
Anyway, let it cook on the low till veggies are tender (about 1 to 1.5 hrs), then add a tomato cut into half, a can of rinsed red beans if you like, and all the saved meat (try to keep the hungry progeny away from the meat, or you might end up browning an extra batch!). If you are using beet greens, they will go into the pot a wee bit earlier than that, though if you have thicker stems the stems can go in with the cabbage, and the tender leaves with the tomato.
Bring back to boil, turn off.
You can serve it right away with sour cream & parsley, dill or for bread eaters with pumpernickel smothered in mustard. BUT! For best results, let the pot stand till it goes down to room temperature, then chill overnight in the fridge. Eat cold or hot with the above add-ons.
Last edited by Leida; 07-10-2012, 08:51 AM.
Thanks, Leida! I made this dish with my russian boyfriend, except we didn't have soup bones and we didn't cook it quite as long, but he liked it, especially after it sat overnight on his stove. We actually made this before you were able to post, so next time I will definitely add in more spices for flavor since we only used 2 bay leaves and a sprinkling of black pepper.
Being of Polish parents, we ate borscht, although it wasn't the thick, meaty kind. It was basically the broth, along with either hard-boiled eggs, cut up and served in the soup. Or cut up white potato, or sometimes tortellini!