Cold Borscht Soup
Last week I asked everyone what I should make over the weekend, and “A Summer Soup” was the resounding winner of the poll. I had a lot of ideas for soups that I could’ve made: A chilled asparagus thing, gazpacho, or maybe something with melon. But as I walked through the Farmer’s Market on Sunday, it was a bunch of very good lookin’ beets that caught my attention. And that meant only one thing: Borscht!
Let’s get three things out of the way. First, I don’t really even like beets. I normally avoid them and hate them in salads. But I loved this soup. Second, borscht is known to be a Winter soup, but I did two things to this variation to make it a bit more summery: I chilled it and I used veggie stock instead of beef stock to lighten it a bit.
Third, I think this soup, while delicious, has about the least appetizing name a soup could have. Borschtttch:
The beets in this soup are actually kind of sweet and everything blends together perfectly. It’s actually a great soup for a hot summer day!
Yield: Serves 6-8.
2 pounds beets, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
3 celery sticks
4 Tablespoons butter
1 white onion, sliced
1/2 -1 red onion, sliced (You could just use white onion. I just happened to have this laying around.)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
5 whole peppercorns
8-10 Cups chicken/beef/veggie stock. I actually think the veggie stock kept it pretty light and summery.
Salt and pepper
Sour cream and chives (for garnish)
Le Creuset 7.25 Quart French Oven or high quality Cast Iron Dutch Oven
1) Peel and cut the beets.
2) Cut the beets into matchsticks about 1/4 inch wide.
3) Cut the carrots and celery into matchsticks that are the same size. Also, slice onions into half rings.
4) Melt the butter over medium-high heat in the largest pan you have.
5) Once the butter is melted, add the onions and cook them for about 5 minutes until they are getting translucent. Then add the celery, carrots, and beets, and garlic. Let those cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.
6) Add a big pinch of kosher salt.
7) Get a piece of cheesecloth, or any clean cloth that you have and wrap up the bay leaves, parsley, cloves, and peppercorns.
8) Add the spice package to the veggies and about 10 cups of veggie stock. That should cover the veggies perfectly. Depending on the size of the veggies though you may need a little more or a bit less. Basically, the stock should just cover the veggies.
9) Bring this to a boil and then simmer on medium-low heat for about an hour until the veggies are tender but not mushy.
10) Let soup cool to room temperature and then stick in fridge for a day.
11) Serve with a big dollop of sour cream, chopped chives, and freshly ground pepper.
As with any soup though, I think it’s very important to make your own stock. You are missing out on a lot of flavor if you don’t. For this version, I wanted to make a vegetable stock. Now, a vegetable stock can be very basic: celery, onion, carrots, garlic, and some herbs like parsley and thyme will make a delicious version.
Honestly though, I’ve never made the same version twice as I kind of just throw in whatever I have on hand or whatever looks decent at the market that day.
Today’s Veggie Stock
- 2 carrots
- 3 celery stalks
- 1 onion
- 1 turnip
- 1 celery root
- 2 cloves garlic
- A sprig of rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 15 or so black peppercorns
- Salt and olive oil
You can leave all of these vegetables pretty whole for a stock. I peeled my celery heart and turnip, but everything else I basically just chopped into quarters. You can leave the skin on the onion and garlic even.
I added about 3 Tablespoons of olive oil into my pan and let the onion quarters sort of brown a bit on each side (just for extra flavor). Then I added my root veggies and after about 5 minutes, I threw in everything else.
Then fill your pot up with water until it just covers all the vegetables. Now, ideally you would have a stock pot for this (which is taller and more narrow), but I use a normal pot and it works great. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Let the stock simmer for about 1 hour with the lid half covered and then another 45 minutes to an hour with the lid off. This will help the flavors intensify a bit.
Then let your stock cool for a few minutes and strain it!
If you are being a perfectionist, you could pour this through some cheesecloth or something to remove every little piece and let it chill overnight to remove the little bit of fat that has accumulated on top (from the oil), but honestly, I just used it as is and it was great. I ended up with about 10 cups of stock.
Step one to this soup, which is actually pretty easy to make once you have the stock made, is to peel and cut the beets. This will inevitably leave you with the mark of the beet!
Now of course you could wear rubber gloves, but where’s the fun in that? Once the beets are peeled, cut them into matchsticks about 1/4 inch wide. They don’t have to be perfectly uniform, but don’t get too sloppy or they won’t cook evenly.
Then cut your carrots and celery into matchsticks that are the same size. Also, slice your onions into half rings. That’s all the chopping you really have to do.
Melt your butter over medium-high heat in the largest pan you have (I used the same one I used for the stock). Once your butter is melted, add your onions and cook them for about 5 minutes until they are getting translucent. Then add your celery, carrots, and beets, and garlic. Let those cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.
Also, now would be a good time to add a big pinch of kosher salt. Say, a teaspoon or two.
Get a piece of cheesecloth, or any clean cloth that you have and wrap up your bay leaves, parsley, cloves, and peppercorns. I actually used like 4 coffee filters stacked on top of each other and that seemed to work okay. I wouldn’t recommend that though unless it is a last resort.
Add the spice package to the veggies and about 10 cups of veggie stock. That should cover the veggies perfectly. Depending on the size of your veggies though you may need a little more or a bit less. Basically, the stock should just cover the veggies.
Everything will immediately turn bright red which is awesome.
Bring this to a boil and then simmer on medium-low heat for about an hour until the veggies are tender but not mushy.
You will end up with this beautiful murky redness.
Now, I must admit that i had a bowl of this warm. I just couldn’t wait. It was really good. The rest of the soup I let cool to room temperature and then stuck in my fridge for a day.
It’s possible that it was even better cold. Hands down, the best way to eat it is with a big dollop of sour cream, chopped chives, and freshly ground pepper.
This soup really made me reconsider the forever stained beet. They are kind of a pain to prepare because of their intense color, but their flavor in this soup is perfect. Light and sweet and very refreshing. It’s definitely different than what I had in mind when I started thinking summer soup, but it worked great.