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Hot Cabbage Borscht

Hot Cabbage Borscht

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Teapot & Hands
Another recipe for gabrielladusult's Lenten list.

The way you can tell whether someone genuinely has any knowledge of Eastern Europe is how he or she reacts to the word “borscht.” Somebody who only knows about it from television will tell you that borscht is cold beet soup, or maybe just beet soup. But someone who’s got Russian, Ukrainian or Polish ancestry, or who’s been there, will tell you that borscht might be any number of soups, the most common being cabbage and beet. They might throw in, too, that the word is sometimes used a synonym for “nothing,” or “nothing of value.” (E.g., at a poker game, “What kind of cards are you holding?” “Borscht.”)

What I like about hot cabbage borscht is that it screams “Winter Meal.” Every vegetable in it is available very late in the season.  Like most medley soups, it’s much better on the second day. Eat it with black bread (or rye bread) and yogurt (well, okay, sour cream, but I live with an Armenian, so it’s yogurt). A hunk of cheese is a good addition too.  Oh, and a dill pickle while you're at it.

The proportions here are approximate. I haven’t looked at a cookbook for this recipe in over ten years, and I squint and shrug to get the right amounts. But this is borscht, not hollandaise sauce – approximation is part of the art form. 


Hot Cabbage Borscht
(Radically modified from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook)

This is probably enough to serve 6-8 people without even thinking about it.

3 onions
1 head cabbage
3 TB olive oil
3 carrots
3-4 beets
2 large or 3 small potatoes 
2 cloves garlic
water or stock (at least 48 oz, maybe more)
1 TB dried dill (or 2 TB fresh, but who has fresh in the winter?)
salt and fresh-ground pepper
1 TB caraway seeds
¼ cup honey.
¼ cup vinegar (wine or cider)
¼ cup raisins, dried currants, dried cherries, or similar
Small can tomato paste

Halve the onions, then thin-slice. Remove the core of the cabbage, then shred or chop the rest. (I don’t like to chop it too much, but remember that what eventually hangs over the spoon may fall out, and this soup stains big-time.)

In a big pot (I use my 6-quart, but that might not be big enough), fry the onions and cabbage until the volume begins to decrease. In a 6-quart pot, you may have to put the cabbage in gradually, because it might not all fit at the beginning. You can leave it on low heat while you cut up the other vegetables, coming back once in a while to give it stir.

Slice the carrots into rounds, peeled or not as you please. (If they're really thick carrots, halve them lengthwise first.)Wash, halve, and thinly slice the potatoes.  Peel the beets (if you’ve never done this before, it’s much cleaner under running water), then halve and slice them. Slice the garlic cloves.

Throw the carrots, potatoes, beets and garlic with the cabbage and onion, then stir a bit more. Add enough cold stock or water to cover the vegetables – maybe a little extra beyond that. Bring to a boil.

While you’re waiting the mess in the pot to come to a boil, start adding things: The dill, salt, pepper, caraway seeds, honey, vinegar, raisins/currants.

Add the tomato paste.  About the tomato paste: It’s a thickener, but it also changes the color and the flavor. I’ve been known to put in as little as half the can, and as much as the whole thing. It’s a matter of taste (as it were).

After the mixture boils, lower the heat, cover it and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes (60 is better, if you have the time).

Correct the seasonings. I mean all the seasonings, including the vinegar and honey. Ideally you should be tasting mostly cabbage and onions, with a strong hint of sweet & sour thrown in. Personally I like more than a hint of the sweet and sour, but my kids make faces if I put in too much vinegar.

If you made corrections then simmer for another 10 minutes. Serve hot. 
  • Yummm. It seems I'm drooling a lot on LJ these days, so many yummy recipes! I have the Moosewood Cookbook - I'll have to dig it out (it might be in the basement still) and add the modifications. :) And if it's WAY different, I'll have to save this as Ken's Borscht. On cooking cabbage: If you're adding it to a soup - either add finely shredded at the very end, so it gets no more than 5 minutes cooking time, or cook for an hour. The gas-inducing properties of cabbage hits a top after 15 minutes or so (don't remember the exact amount of time) and stay high until almost an hour has passed, when it drops spectacularly. One of our way cool cooks/journalists has been (and is, I think) working with Hervé This on Molecular Gastronomy, and he wrote about this. So I'd say that for your nose's wellbeing, I'd cook for one hour. :p

    (And I need to make myself some cooking icons...)
    • Hi, Berte. I forgot the potatoes. Look at the recipe again for the corrected version.

      The cabbage is cooked for about 20 minutes before the broth ever gets onto it; does that count?
      • All cooking time counts. Cooking in steam just as much as cooking in liquid. I need to buy those books, this scientific approach to cooking is part of why I love the Cake Bible by Reose Levy Beranbaum. iirc, she scientifically researched how to fold in flour in beaten eggs. Which method preserved the most air? Can you imagine the amount of eggs, sugar and flour she must've used to find out?
  • Thank you! I forward this to my co-worker and friend from Russia. She never tried it with honey. So, shel'll try it. It's a little big meal for me and David. I might try it in March. I have a get together with my brother and sister in law.
    • Hi, Rachel. Note please that I forgot the potatoes. Double-check the recipe now that I've corrected it.
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