Saturday, February 21, 2015

Borscht 2 Ways

My mother often makes Borscht, or Russian beet soup, as taught to her by my Russian grandmother. The recipe is very flexible based on available ingredients.  For instance, my grandmother could not afford to use much meat.  My mom does not have a set recipe and bases amounts on the size of the pot that she is using, but I have written down an approximation.

1 lb.  or more beef stew meat
8-12 cups homemade beef broth or water with 4 tsp. of beef bouillon
1 medium to large onion, chopped
5 potatoes, cubed (in my recipe below, I use rutabaga instead; I also sometimes increase the other vegetables and omit potato or rutabaga)
at least 2 carrots shredded
1/2 green cabbage, shredded
4 med. or 3 lg. beets, peeled and shredded in food processor
2 T. lemon juice + more to taste
salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven or stock pot, cover the beef cubes, celery, and garlic with water and simmer on low for two hours.  Discard celery and garlic.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 30 more minutes.  Season with beef bouillon and salt & pepper as needed to enhance the broth.  Add a dollop of sour cream to individual bowls.  


I adapted my mother's recipe, using my Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker) to speed up the process.  I pressure cook the beets and the beef while cooking the rest of the soup ingredients on the stove top.  Total cooking time = 1 hour 

4 medium beets, stems trimmed, reserving leaves
2 T. fresh lemon juice

Pre-cook beets in pressure cooker (1 c. water in bottom of pot, beets on rack or steamer basket, 25 mins. high pressure, quick release); reserve liquid, slip skins when cool, grate, and mix in lemon juice.  Set aside.

1 T.  oil
1 onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed
2 - 2.5 # beef for stew, 1 inch cubes
2 tsp. salt
stalk of celery
1 cup water or broth
reserved beet juice

Salt the beef cubes. Sautee onions and garlic in oil in electric pressure cooker (optional).  Add beef cubes and water/broth to reserved liquid from cooking beets.  Cook for 35 mins. on high in pressure cooker and natural release steam for 10-15 mins.  Remove celery.  

While the beets and beef are cooking in the pressure cooker, prep and cook the following on the stove top (add the vegetables to the boiling broth in the stock pot as soon as the meat reaches high pressure in the Instant Pot).

10 cups homemade stock or beef broth made with bouillon 
2 large carrots, grated
2  rutabagas, peeled and cut in 1/4 in. thick rounds, then each round cut into 6-9 pieces.
1/2 green cabbage, shredded
beet greens, large stems removed and cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)
1 T. more fresh lemon juice to taste
1 1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
salt & pepper

In a large pot, bring stock to a boil and add rutabagas and carrots.  Cover and turn heat down to medium.  After 15 minutes, add shredded cabbage, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes.  Add beet greens and cook for a few more minutes.  Add grated cooked beets and heat only at a gentle simmer, adding lemon juice, dill, and salt & pepper to taste.  When the meat is done in the pressure cooker, stir it into the soup pot.  The soup can be served immediately in individual bowls with dollops of sour cream.

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