Monday, 6 February 2012

Beautiful Borscht

I first discovered that I actually love beets in my late 20s.  I had joined a food co-op and there was a weekly CSA that I signed up for.  This was the mid 90s, before the locavore 'fad' really took off and I was exposed to many foods that I had never eaten before, and some of them I had never even seen.

One of these items was beets.  Yes, beets.  Oh sure, on occasion, I'd tentatively sampled those generally awful pickled beets that are way too sweet and use the cheapest quality of white vinegar.  I had determined from those scrunched up face samples that no thank-you, like my mother, I did not like beets.

So when these first fresh beets arrived I queried my fellow CSA members and was told to roast them, skins on, for about an hour (these were generously sized beets).  Roasting them with the skins on retains more of the fresh flavour - you remove the skin after baking them.  I was also told back then that you could eat beets raw, like carrots.  At that time I felt that a whole new culinary closet had been revealed to me.  Because, you see, it turned out that I actually love beets.  Really really love them. I also have fond memories of my daughter painting her face with them - she would get so excited when I made beets because she was allowed to play with her food :)

And since then I have grown them, souped them, slawed them and still often roast them with their skins on.  I really like the candy striped variety that I grew a couple of years ago.  Another favourite variety are the bright orange (gold) ones too.  I stay away from pickling them although I might give that a go since I've tasted better quality beet pickles now too.

One recipe that I never quite got the knack of was Borscht.  And last week, while walking my dog, one of my wonderful neighbours called me over to give my dog a treat (she doesn't have a dog, she just keeps treats for dog passerbys by like me).  I joked that my dog was living the good life on that particular day since I had made chicken stock the previous day and she was enjoying all the gristle from that (bones removed, of course).  This neighbour then said that she had made borscht the previous weekend and would I like some of the rib gristle for my dog? She had been giving it to her cats but there was still plenty.  This led to an exchange by not only animal lovers but also made-from-scratch food lovers.  She told me the recipe of her Ukrainian heritage family and yesterday I finally made it after craving it since she told me about it.

Ukrainian Borscht
1 - 2 lbs pork ribs  - I used riblets
1 bunch beets peeled and chopped into bit sized pieces - use root only - I used the green tops for another soup I made
1/2 bunch fresh dill (about 12 stalks)
1/4 - 1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
salt and pepper to taste

Put the ribs in a medium sized cast iron pot with a tight fitting lid and cover with water.  Add salt and bring to a boil.  Simmer until meat is falling off the bones, about 2 hours.  Use a colander to strain the broth.  Return the broth to the pot and remove the meat from the bones and gristle.  Add the small sized meat pieces to the stock. Add the chopped beet.  Add the stalks of dill with the thickest parts of the stalk removed,  I then 'broke' the stalks into large pieces of about 2 - 6 inches in length. Bring the mixture back to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes in order to cook the beets. Refrigerate at least 1 day in order to let the flavours settle.  Add the lemon juice (to taste) before serving.
My soup pot and one of the freezer jars of borscht.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's always been an ambition of mine (aka bucket list item) to make my own kvass. Early Ukrainian immigrants used this homemade sour for their Borscht.

The next generation used homemade or bought vinegar.

And here *we* are using lemons, the Florida and California sour --imported and trucked thousands of miles.

Come back home.

Nourishing Traditions has a method too, but I like this better because the cook calls the Kvass "she".