Borscht with Short Rib Stock
Borscht is a funny little soup. Beet soup. It’s pink. Or magenta. A staple in Northern and Eastern Europe. The kind of soup that your Oma or Babushka would make. It’s truly a cozy, comfort, stick to your ribs kind of soup. And one of Jim’s favourites. So it’s just a matter of time once winter gets here before he is asking for it.
And really, it’s a super healthy soup. Jam-packed with veggies. Every home in Poland, the Ukraine, Russia, even Germany etc will have their own recipe for it. And they’re all good! Some use meat, others are completely vegetarian. Some have cabbage, others don’t. So really, mine is just another variation. This is the kind of soup my mom used to make. Whatever was in the fridge or pantry made its way into the pot. Nothing ever got wasted by my mom!
I made this soup right towards the beginning of our married life. The recipe is originally from a Bon Appetit magazine in 1997. And every bowl of borscht that I’ve tried since then, I compare to this one, it’s just that good. What I love about the recipe, is that it starts with making a beef stock using short ribs. Then the meat is cooled and shredded and incorporated into the finished soup. The beets are roasted, and then peeled (the roasting makes the peeling such an easy event). And the final soup is filled with carrots, onion, cabbage, potatoes, everything that our wintertime bellies are craving.
It’s finished off with that customary sour cream that will turn the entire soup the bestest shade of fuchsia ever! And the sourness of the sour cream will cut through any slight sweetness that the beets bring. Together with red wine or apple cider vinegar, they both ensure that this soup is balanced: tart, savoury, tangy, just sweet enough. I also add a touch of smoked paprika, for just the gentlest amount of heat. But you certainly don’t have to. Also, really do taste and season. You may find the sweetness of the beets overwhelming. In that case, a touch more salt will be your friend. You want a balanced flavour profile here. Unless you love the sweetness of beets, in which case, leave well enough alone! Another Jennifer-ism: I am happy to use red cabbage when I can’t find a napa or savoy cabbage. It works wonderfully in this soup.
Because there are a few steps to this recipe, and because there are only two of us here (the cats don’t care for borscht) I make extra and freeze it in large freezer bags, so that I don’t have to go through all that work again. It makes life so much easier to just pull out a bag when we have a craving, and I don’t have the mental powers (let alone the time or desire) to start from scratch. Or another option: prepare the stock and meat. Divide both of these in half, and freeze in separate freezer bags- you will have four in all. Then when you are ready to make the rest of the soup, just thaw one stock and one meat bag. And prepare the rest of the recipe, cutting all the ingredients in half of course 😉
So pull up a seat, and have a bowl of borscht. Pozjalista (okay, that was a pathetic attempt at trying to take the Russian word for ‘you’re welcome’ and spell it with our Roman alphabet) You’re welcome!!
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 3 1/2 quarts water
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
- 12 whole black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 whole cloves
- 10 medium beets (about 2 inches in diameter), rinsed, tops trimmed
- 1 cup water
- 3 cups (about) canned beef broth
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 6 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (about 1/2 small head)
- 4 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 large russet potato, peeled, diced
- 2 tablespoons (or more) red wine vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar, you choose)
- Sour cream
- Heat vegetable oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add half of beef ribs and sauté until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate. Repeat with remaining ribs; transfer to plate.
- Add sliced onion to pot. Sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Return ribs and any juices to pot.
- Add 3 1/2 quarts water and remaining stock ingredients. Bring to boil, skimming any foam from surface.
- Reduce heat and simmer until ribs are very tender, skimming foam occasionally, about 2 1/2 hours.
- Using tongs, transfer ribs to plate. Strain stock into large bowl. Chill stock until fat solidifies on top, at least 3 hours.
- Remove meat from bones; cut away excess fat. Shred meat finely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover meat and chill. Keep stock chilled.)
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Arrange beets in single layer in 13x9x2-inch baking dish; add 1 cup water. Cover; bake beets until tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour. Cool beets. Peel and cut into 1/3-inch dice.
- Remove fat from surface of stock. Add enough canned beef broth to stock to measure 10 cups.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large pot over medium-low heat. Add diced carrots and chopped onions and sauté 10 minutes.
- Add cabbage and garlic and sauté 5 minutes. Add 10 cups beef stock, beets, potato and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Simmer until cabbage and potato are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Add shredded meat; simmer 5 minutes. Season with additional red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Ladle borscht into bowls. Top each with dollop of sour cream and serve.
- The original recipe states that it feeds 10. I find that it feeds a few more! Maybe we just don't eat as much as other Bon Appetit readers!!!
- This can easily be frozen if you find you have too much left over.
- Or why not make and freeze the stock and meat in containers, each divided into two portions. Then you can have one bag of stock and one bag of meat ready to go, and all you'll have to do is roast up half of the beets etc.