Borscht, Vegetarian Style, w/Beets, Cabbage, Potato

Authentic Borscht recipes might use rye flour to thicken the soup, or might include “Kwas” (a fermented rye brew). For those used to fermenting foods, it’s nothing too tricky; after rye flour and water ferments for a few days, the water’s poured off. The water gets fermented some more, which gives the soup its twang.

Bowl of Bright Red Russian Soup

Beets and other veggies make this a colorful, flavorful vegetarian-style borscht recipe. A touch of sauerkraut, Kwas, or other fermented veggies will add a little zip, but a dash of vinegar would sub in a pinch.

Never heard of Kwas? It can be likened to a beer of sorts. A rye flour (or rye bread) and water mixture ferments for days; the water is poured off to ferment some more. An already-brewed Kwas might be found at some specialty markets, but the soup is quite good without it.

Some authentic Borscht recipes also call for homemade sauerkraut, but many prefer the milder, less tangy recipe below. If the tang of sauerkraut is desired, homemade is fairly easy to make, and is completely different from canned sauerkraut. To make it, slice up a cabbage, sprinkle it well with salt, and let it juice up for an hour or so. Put it into a jar, keeping the cabbage weighted down with a plate, so it is submerged in its juices. Pounding it down helps it to juice up that much more and won’t hurt it! Let it sit in a crock, jar, or other glass or ceramic container, at room temperature. Refrigerate after five days or so; it turns into authentic, naturally fermented sauerkraut, which many claim is a healthful food full of beneficial probiotics.

Beef broth and/or chunks of beef can be added as well, for a heartier soup with even more flavor. Serves 4-6.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium-sized beets
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 c. or so slivered cabbage
  • 1 TBS. rye flour (or substitute white flour)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. toasted caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar
  • Optional: sauerkraut, beef, and/or beef stock

PREPARATION

1. Bake an hour or more (depending on size), at 375 degrees, wrapped in foil, until tender: > 2 medium-sized beets

2. After beets cool, prepare by skinning and julienning. Set aside.

3. Peel, then cook in water to cover, until tender: > 2 potatoes, cubed > 1-2 carrots, sliced

4. Grill in olive oil: > 1 c. or so slivered cabbage

5. In medium-large pot, add grilled, tender cabbage, and: > 1 TBS. rye flour (or substitute white flour)

6. To the roux of flour and oil, add liquid slowly, mixing until smooth, bringing the mixture to a boil: > Vegetable broth from cooking the veggies, plus more water if necessary

7. After cooking roux/broth mixture for 2 minutes or so, add all ingredients to the pot: > The cooked cabbage/broth > The cooked potato/carrots > The julienned beets > salt to taste > 1/4 tsp. toasted caraway seeds > 2 tsp. white vinegar (or substitute sauerkraut > beef chunks and/or beef stock, if desired

Serve topped with sour cream and dill weed.

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