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Borscht!
Appetizers, Economical, Healthy, Soups, Vegetarian

Cold Borscht Soup

by Nick

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.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Cold Borscht

Ingredients

  • 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)

Helpful Equipment

Directions

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

Veggie stock ingredients

Veggie stock ingredients

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.

A rough chop is fine.

A rough chop is fine.

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!

This actually has tons of flavor.

This actually has tons of flavor.

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!

The MARK!

The MARK!

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.

Cool.

Cool.

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.

Matchsticks are the desired size.

Matchsticks are the desired size.

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.

The spices

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.

Sautee everything.

Sautee everything.

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.

A murky stew.

A murky stew.

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.

Borscht!

Borscht!

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.

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16 comments on “Cold Borscht Soup

  1. I got some beets in my CSA box and have been wondering what to do with them. This sounds like something I'll have to try.

  2. I just have to share. My mom used to make a soup that looked pretty like this, but was not like this. We Never called it that ugly name, but rather called it "Red Beet Soup".

    It is so easy. You need beets with beautiful fresh tops. You cut the tops off, wash everything, (put the clean tops aside for now) boil the bottom of the beets in water to cover, and save the water. The skins will slip off the beets when they cool, so you can chop them.

    Then you put the red water they boiled in, into a soup pot, with more water, Lipton onion soup mix (which has a beef flavor), all the green tops, which you have cut up, and the chopped beets.

    After this boils for ten or fifteen minutes, you put a small tub of sour cream in a clean little bowl, put a ladle or two of the hot soup into it, stir, then pour that all into the soup. Wallah! It is eaten hot, and is light and delicious. If there are not enough beet tops, spinach or chard are beautiful additions, the more greens, the better really.

    The soup comes out bright pink and delicious. It tastes mild and sweet, and is almost vegetarian.

    Your soup, Nick, is an excellent, lovely looking summer soup, which I may try making. :)

  3. Thanks for the variation Christina! I saw something very similar to that when I was doing some research for this recipe.

    Sounds great and would be an awesome way to use the beet tops.

  4. “First, I don’t really even like beets”

    I could not concur any more with this statement and further believe that is where this post should’ve ended. The whole part where you used the awful beets to make a dish was a complete loss for me :-P. Stupid Geoff makes me eat stupid beets sometimes when he roasts them, and I will admit they are good served over pieces of paper thin sliced and broiled swordfish – but that IS IT.

    If you’d like to add a little bit more color/flavor to your veg. stock, you can blanch some unpeeled pearl onions in the cooking liquid before adding it – they really do a great job in a hot minute. Generally I do this in conjunction with scoring the bottoms of the onions and blanching them to remove the skins to use in another dish. Who wants to peel an entire bag of pearl onions? Not me.

  5. I agree with Christina, borscht really does need some leafy greens. Traditionally cabbage, but spinach or swiss chard are good substitutes.

    However, your assessment of the name 'borscht' only emphasizes your lack of German/Austrian/Ukrainian/etc background and upbringing–some would even call it a deprivation.

    To those of us who grew up with borscht as a weekly staple, the word conjures up countless memories of home, mouth-watering food and good meals. Altho, even to my ears, the anglicized version of 'borscht' doesn't sound nearly as palatable as the original.

  6. Hi Nick,

    It winter in Aussie land, so on weekend Veg soup becomes a favorite choice. Beetroot has just a fantastic taste, however, we blend the soup purely because the kids are fussy about vegi. But all in all a very healthy refresh meal for a cold winter night. Good on you Nick, enjoyed the post.

  7. Borscht is a soup that is popular in many Eastern and Central European countries, and now spread all over the world. Jew emigrate from Russian and its surrounding countries is the original spreader of Borscht. And today, because of its riching in nutrition and lower calories, it is beloved by people all over the world, and also is a perfect dish for people that are on diet.
    As follow is the simple Recipe of Borscht:
    Ingredients
    8 cups beef broth*
    1 pound slice of meaty bone-in beef shank
    1 large onion, peeled, quartered
    4 large beets, peeled, chopped
    4 carrots, peeled, chopped
    1 large russet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
    3/4 cup chopped fresh dill
    3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
    1 cup sour cream
    Finally, Salt and pepper to taste
    source:http://blog.bitcomet.com/post/105267/

  8. You may not be aware of this, but there is a national Lithuanian dish which, when translated, is called “cold borscht”, though it’s made very similarly to borscht, you do not actually cook any ingredients and you use not broth, but kefir (you may or may not have kefir available in the US, I have no idea, but plain yoghurt would work as well I think).

    Here’s a recipe with google translate:
    http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=lt&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.zaidimuaikstele.lt%2F2009%2F03%2Fmamos-saltibarsciai-paprasieji-skanieji.html

    I could write it out neater if you’d like, (this is not my site I linked to), but check it out, it’s the ultimate cold soup in these parts.

  9. After looking over countless “borscht” recipe variations, yours is the one I am making tomorrow to chill for dinner Saturday. Quite excited! Thanks for writing this up Nick!

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