This is a special dish which I just love but it has to have tomatoes in it to be my favorite. It is the favorite dish for Ukrainians and is served daily as well as on holidays. Once having tasted this most delicious soup everyone wonders about its origins.
The word borshchivnyk dates back to the 15th century and referred to a kind of vegetable and wild leafy plant which at one time was used for borscht in place of cabbage. We can assume that borscht was on the menus in Kievan, Russia even before the birth of Christ. It was adopted by the Lithuanians and became their national dish made with stuffed dumplings and pork loin. Other countries have their own variations. In Poland, it’s known as barszcz and includes stuffed dumplings. In Romania it’s ciorba and the base of the soup includes fermented seeds.
When it came to the 18th century Peter I introduced potatoes to the Slavic lands and people began to replace turnip in borscht with potatoes. Soon a main ingredient even became tomatoes. Before anyone knew it there were at least 30 traditional kinds of borscht recipes. Basically anyone can make borsch to be their very own just by adding different kinds of ingredients which they prefer. Some ingredients which are used include pickled beets, squash, dumplings, sausages and there is even borscht made with goose.
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Besides being able to serve hot borscht it can also be made as a cold soup made with meat and/or mushroom broth, prunes, or kidney beans. Borscht gets it’s incredibly deep purple color from beets which can be cooked whole, cubed, or grated into the soup. Every cook has his or her secret and makes it just a little bit differently. It is a known folk tradition that real borscht has to be thick enough for a spoon to stand up in it and the steam so thick that you can’t see your children’s faces through it. Usually, thick borscht is served on occasions when the whole family gathers together to celebrate. Popular to be served on holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
Then there is borscht my way and I love my way. This is usually a very satisfying soup to make during the fall and winter. Simply take a piece of beef any cut you prefer and cut it up into chunks. Dredge it in flour and brown the meat on a hot pan. Put the meat into a large pot (how much will depend on how many people will be served), add 2 beef bouillon cubes, cut up carrots, quartered onions, a whole head of garlic separated into bulbs, grated cabbage, cut up fresh tomatoes or a can of tomatoes along with the juice. Water to cover it all and bring to a boil then simmer until the meat is almost fork tender. At this point add chunks of potatoes. Have boiled beets at the ready and once the potatoes are done I grate in beets at least four. Stir through a small can of tomato paste to make it a bit thicker. I serve it so everyone can add a dollop of sour cream to their steaming hot soup.
*For those who really want to have thick soup sauerkraut can be added along with the cabbage, The soup won’t be too tangy but will have a bit of a tart taste,