How to Prepare Authentic Russian Borscht
By Christy Naujalis
While I lived in Philadelphia, I had a great number of meals next door with my neighbors. Mrs. M is a terrific cook and I always appreciated dining with her and her family. They introduced me to many native Russian dishes. My favorite was Mrs. M's borscht, which she taught me to make. Her borscht is so popular with my family that I quadruple her recipe.
Mrs. M's borscht is incredibly amazing and consuming it just once is definitely not enough - hence, the multiple batch. This is a gorgeous deep fuchsia soup speckled with colorful, perfectly proportioned diced vegetables. After dinner, I give everyone a takeout container of borscht for the next day. I am glad to have discovered that using a sharp knife set and a food processor, I am able to cut prep time for this recipe in half.
I am sharing Mrs. M's original recipe with you, that for one meal, serves four people. It does not need hours of simmering, and so most of the preparation is in chopping the vegetables. Adjust your simmer time to your own preference for veggie crispness. I add the bell peppers, green beans, and peas at the very last moment, but you might prefer that they simmer somewhat longer.
I utilize my food processor for the following ingredients: onion, tomatoes, cabbage, basil, parsley, dill, and cilantro. With a capacity of 14 cups and the large chopping blade, you can process several types of vegetables simultaneously. Just feed them through the chute and pulse for a few moments to reach your desired size for vegetable pieces. For the rest of the vegetables, I use an 8" cook's knife to slice through the red beets, potatoes, carrots, string beans, and peppers with ease.
Peel the beets and cut into tiny pieces. Place the beets in a saucepan and pour cool water over them so that you have 2" of water on top of the beets. Bring to a boil and after that add 2 teaspoons of sugar. Add 1/8 teaspoon of lemon acid powder (available in Russian markets) and a little bit more cool water. Decrease the heat and simmer for one hour until beets are soft.
Shred and also chop the cabbage. Place it in a separate pot and fill it midway with water. Add 2 bay leaves and 5 peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Skin the potatoes and slice them into tiny pieces. Peel and dice the carrots and onion. Add these to the stockpot together with the cabbage and bring it to a boil again. Simmer another 15 minutes. Add peas, green beans, red pepper, and tomatoes. Bring this to a boil once again and simmer for five minutes. Add salt, freshly ground pepper, and a handful of freshly chopped basil, parsley, dill, and cilantro (all of these herbs combined total one handful).
Add the beets and their stock to the stockpot of vegetables and your borscht is finished. Ladle into bowls and finish each bowlful with a dollop of sour cream and also a garnish of fresh dill weed.