Ukrainian Red Beet Borscht

Thankfully, many years before my Grandmother passed away, I had the opportunity to watch her way of cooking this sweet, bright magenta soup first hand. Often cited as the Ukraine for it’s origin, (I think I’m bias ;) although it’s had it’s roots in most parts of eastern Europe. (no pun intended) Borscht, is slavic for borschevik or hogweed. What was originally used when making this hearty soup.

I commonly squished my face in disgust to this swampy looking vegetable soup as a child. This was before of course, I matured my palate and realized this stuff was pure goodness. 30 years of gathering with my Father’s large and ever-growing family on Christmas eve, at a dining room table (usually in an U or T shape to accommodate everyone). All this to enjoy and savor this once-a-year, 5-course Ukrainian meal. Two soups, a porridge, 2 varieties of cabbage rolls and perogies among other aperitifs and dessert treats. An experience to say the least, I think there’s butter in EVERY dish! A thick and fattening meal that leaves you wanting more while resenting what you already consumed!

The borscht soup I enjoyed cooking with my grandmother, is as authentic as she remembered learning from her mother - which I’m sure has been tweaked over the years. Her version contains a LOT of butter, oh and cream, lot’s of that as well! However, the authenticity and color of borscht is truly determined by the ingredients that go into making it. An true borscht recipe would ask for onions, beets, butter, carrots, beans, potatoes, dill, cream and lemon for balancing. Possibly cabbage and different varieties of meats are also commonly used.

Beets are a pure source of folic acid, fiber, iron, magnesium and potassium. Medicinally used for disorders of the liver - stimulating to the detoxification process. Betacyanin a cancer-flighting agent, gives them their bright pink pigment. (Murray,2005)


  • prep time

    25 minutes
  • cook time

    2-4 hours
  • yields

    five 16 oz. mason jars (maybe more depending on how long you cook it for)
  • inspired by

    My Grandmother’s traditional borscht
  • Night before

    Soak the dill weed by covering with the water and bring it to a boil before cooking.

Prep

  • one
    bunch dill (plus more for garnish)
  • two cups
    water for dill
  • five
    onions, or 6 cups diced and divided
  • 1 1/2 cups
    unsalted butter or ghee, divided
  • 1/2 cups
    olive oil
  • 3 tsp
    sea salt, divided
  • two
    large sweet potatoes, quartered
  • three
    beets, cleaned, peeled and quartered
  • one
    chili pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 tsp
    ground pepper
  • two
    carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 10 oz.
    green beans, chopped into 1” pieces (about 11/2 cups)
  • 2 cups
    vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cups
    lemon, juiced
  • 10 oz.
    cremé fraîche
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Method

  1. Add 1 cup of the butter, olive oil and 5 cups onions and 1 tsp salt to a large pot and sauté slowly on medium heat until clear 10 minutes. Turn down to medium-low for another 15 minutes, it will increase in liquid almost by half when finished - pour into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Food process each separately, sweet potatoes, beets then remaining onions.
  3. In another pot, add potatoes and cover with water by 1” - add 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, turn off heat strain and reserve water.
  4. In the first large pot, add the remaining butter and the beets and salt and pepper. Stir to combine until the butter is melted.
  5. Add the potatoes and reserved potato water (add more water if neccessary), dill liquid, beans, carrots, chili pepper, stock, lemon juice and 1 cup of the reserved butter and onions mixture. Bring to a boil, very slowly over medium heat.
  6. Cover and turn down to a low simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occationally or until desired tenderness is reached on vegetables. They should be slightly squishy.
  7. To serve, remove from heat and stir in creme fraîche to create a bright pink hue. Garnish with a sprig of dill.

  • Sources: (1) Murray, Michael T., Joseph E. Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria, 2005. 164-65. Print.