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Borscht – a gem of Ukrainian culinary art

April 22, 2015
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World does not know much about Ukraine. Most of the people think that it’s just a little part of Russia and cannot really see the difference.

However when it comes to food, I bet that many of you have some idea about Borscht, or borsh. This is this red-colored soup with a lot of stuff inside and that tastes incredibly good! So, FYI the origins of this meal are indeed in Ukraine. The legend says that long-long time ago, when the strongest were hunting and the weakest collecting food, Ukrainian women discovered a taste of rumex (щавель). In a while they also learned how to boil it and prepare soup. After the tribes moved to the North, to the modern Russian territory, they took the cooking tradition along. By adding eggs and sour-cream, we will get something that is known like Russian Green Borscht – “Shee”. Meanwhile, cross-continental trade was developing and Ukrainians were introduced to the new ingredient – red beet root. It came to us from the Mediterranean cost. It took the main place in the traditional Ukrainian Red Borscht. Consequently the other ingredients like cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, were added. All of them were “innovations” from the West.

We say that every housewife has her own recipe of Borsch and you can never find 2 identical soups. Hereby it is common to say that Borscht is “created”, not cooked. It is like a piece of art – you can always add something new and experiment, but there are also rules that you have to follow. The traditional Ukrainian Borscht differs from the west to the east of the country. In the west you can find more similarities with Polish Barsh that is a red beet root soup without anything in it. In the central and eastern regions folks like to add cabbage, carrots, potatoes, sometimes even prune.

Being a 25-years old Ukrainian woman, I started to feel ashamed that I have never cooked Borscht in my entire life. Ever though my grandma tried to teach me a couple of times, but I never had time or will to try myself and eventually it was all forgotten. This time it will be different! Now I went through all the steps of the process and took pictures of every small detail – and this will not be lost.

Borscht “creation” contains 2 simultaneous procedures –  preparation of broth and “pidjarka”. In the end you just mix them together, add salt and spices and the masterpiece is ready.

But let’s first see the ingredients that we have to prepare.

For the broth you will need meat. Anything: pork, beef, chicken or even a mix. Note that for the best results there should be a bone. For the 3.5 liter of broth we took about 300-400 grams of meat (with bone).

meatforbroth

Meat for the broth

 

For “pidjarka” you will need some vegetables namely: beetroot, carrots, onions and in the end 3-4 spoons of sugar.

 

pidjarka

Beetroot, onions, carrots and cabbage – peeled and cleaned

 

Potatoes

Potatoes

And some herbs and garlic that we will also add in the end.

herbs

Some herbs and garlic

We are starting with the broth. At first we cover the meat with water and boil it. After it starts to boil take it off fire and wash the meat and the pan. Start all over again, but this time put 3.5 liters of clean water and begin to boil the broth. Basically this is it, the broth will be boiling until the meat is ready, around 1-1,5 hours. Note “If you want to cook it fast, leave it on the big fire, if you want the broth to look transparent and clear, boil it on the small fire”.

Meanwhile let’s switch to “pdjarka” that is basically the core of the meal. Chop beetroots, carrots and onions and start frying them with a bit of sunflower, olive or any other oil. Stir and fry for 10-15 minutes, until they look ready. After that add 0,5-0,7 liter tomato juice and 4 spoons of sugar. Stir everything nicely and leave on the small fire for 40-50 minutes. Stir from time to time.

collage pidjarka

Getting ready

 

While you are busy with “pidjarka”, the broth might already get ready. Check the meat, if it’s done, we can continue. The next step is to ad chopped cabbage, potatoes and a little piece of onion to the broth.

othervegetables

Vegetables

 

Boil them for another 15 minutes until the vegetables are done. After that add “pidjarka” to the broth. It will like this:

Mix

Mix everything

Mix it all together – this is almost the end. We need to remember to add some spices. As you can imagine the soup has a sweet taste at the moment. Beetroot + sugar are contributing to it. Therefore, now don’t be greedy on salt. Add at least 2 full table spoons of salt, 10 pieces of unground black pepper, 6 bay leaves. Try to fit your own taste. The last element is to add herbs and garlic, to give it a better smell and a better look.

This is how it should look like in the end. The rule says that the spoon should get stuck in the pan of Borsch.

borscht_end

Here we go