Borshch, like most peasant soups, improves tremendously as it stands and is usually made in huge quantities. It will happily keep for 4 to 5 days. Though I like my borshch pretty pure, you can add a handful of chopped prunes, some dried mushrooms, previously soaked, or a meaty smoked ham hock. Baking the beet in its skin is the secret to a beautiful ruby color. A thick slice of sourdough pumpernickel or rye (its crust rubbed with a little garlic) is a must, while borshch without sour cream doesn't deserve to be called borshch.
- 1 pound beef chuck or shin trimmed of excess fat
- 1 pound meaty pork spareribs
- 14 cups water
- 2 medium onions
- 2 medium carrots, peeled
- 1 medium parsnip, peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 peppercorns
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium beets (about 1 pound), washed and stemmed
- 1 slice good smoky bacon, chopped
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
- 1 large green pepper, cored, seeded and diced
- 2 cups chopped green cabbage
- 3 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 (16-ounce) can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 1 small tart Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley leaves
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons sugar
- Sour cream, chopped fresh dill, and thinly sliced scallions, for serving
Combine the beef, pork and water in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim thoroughly and reduce the heat to low. Add the rest of the stock ingredients, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer partially covered, until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Strain the stock, removing the meats. You should have 10 to 11 cups of stock. Discard the marrow bones. Cut the beef and the pork into 1 1/2-inch chunks, discarding the pork bones. Reserve the meats.
While the stock is cooking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Wrap the beets separately in aluminum foil and bake until a tip of a small knife slides in easily, about 45 minutes. Unwrap the beets, plunge them into a bowl of cold water, then slip off the skins. Grate the beets a 4-sided box grater or shred in a food processor, and set aside
In a large, heavy soup pot, cook the bacon in the butter over medium heat until it renders its fat. Add the onion, carrot, and pepper, and saute until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the cabbage, and saute, stirring, for another 7 minutes. Add the stock, the potatoes, tomatoes, apple, and the reserved meats. Season with salt to taste, and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the reserved beets and cook the soup over medium-low heat until all the vegetables are soft and the flavors have melded, about 25 minutes more.
With a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, pepper, and parsley to a paste and add it to the soup. (If you don't have a mortar and pestle, just use ground pepper, crushed garlic and minced parsley.) Stir in the vinegar and the sugar, adjusting the balance of sweet and sour, to taste. Let the borshch stand for 10 minutes before serving (or better serve the next day.) To serve, add a teaspoon of sour cream to each bowl and sprinkle liberally with dill and scallions. Instruct the diners to mix the sour cream well into the soup.