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Author Notes: There is no single "correct" way to actually cook Ukrainian borscht. Each hostess has her own ideas about the ingredients to be used and the process with which borscht has to be cooked. As a result there are as many versions of Ukrainian borscht recipes as there are hostesses in Ukraine. So what is it that is so special about Ukrainian borscht? Borscht is not just a regular meal; it is also one of Ukraine's national symbols. It took its name from the old Slavic word "br'sch" which means "beet". There is nothing better than to eat a big bowl of hot borsch when you come in on a cold winter day. Borscht will warm up your body and soul, bringing much more optimism to your life. Be sure to invite all your relatives and friends to try your Ukrainian borscht which you have cooked yourself. Do not worry if you have extra, because next day Ukrainian borscht is the tastiest. You can experiment with borscht recipes as much as you want, but one thing you should remember, traditional Ukrainian food is very moderate and balanced. They don't use anything that is "too much". Try to experiment and see what you can do to invent your own borscht recipe. It may very well still remind you of Ukrainian borscht, but remember, the key to the most flavorful borscht is the meat stock. Use whatever meat you like. In my recipe I am using duck; beef or veal cross cut shanks with marrow bone are definitely great. —Kukla
Serves a crowd
For the Borscht
- 4 Duck leg quarters and the carcasses of two young birds washed, excess fat removed and reserved
- 3 to 3 1/2 quarts cold water
- 1 large onion, peeled, make a deep X-shape cut not all the way through
- 1 head of garlic, washed and cut in half crosswise
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- 2 celery stacks, (preferably with leaves) each cut in two or three pieces
- 1 large or 2 medium parsley roots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- 1 medium fresh beet, peeled and cut in half
- 1 red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed and cut in half
- 4 teaspoons coarse salt
- 2 bay leaves
- A bunch of fresh thyme, parsley and dill, tied together
- 3 medium russet potatoes, cut in about 1/2-inch chunks
- 1/2 head of a medium cabbage, or more for a thicker consistency, shredded a little wider then for a coleslaw
- 2 cups homemade or prepared tomato sauce (I like 100% natural Hunt’s no salt added)
- Sour cream, lemon juice, additional chopped parsley, dill and garlic for serving
- Place the meat into an about 5-5 1/2 quarts large stock pot. Cover with cold water, transfer to stove and bring to boil on medium heat. Skim of any foam that rises to the top a few times, put in all the vegetables (reserve potatoes and cabbage) bay leaves, herbs and salt.
- Cover and simmer on low heat for 2 hours. (If I use beef I cook it for a long time to make sure the meat is extremely soft and practically melts in your mouth.)
- When the meat is tender, using a slotted spoon, transfer it and all the cooked vegetables and herbs to a colander placed over a bowl, strain the stock and return to the pot.
- Cook potatoes in the stock, then add tomato sauce and cabbage. I add the cabbage after the tomato sauce to prevent it of getting too soft, I like it still a little crunchy. Cut the cooked beet into matchsticks and add to the borscht, the acid in tomato sauce keeps the bright color of the beet.
- Take of the meat from the bones, discard the skin and pull the meat apart in bite-size pieces, return the meat to the pot or keep it separately and add to each bowl of borscht when serving.
- When serving, you can also add some additional flavors to compliment borscht, so here are some traditional variants. Add a tablespoon of sour cream in your soup bowl or some lemon juice, sprinkle with a mix of chopped parsley, dill and very fine minced garlic or put a pinch or more of dried red pepper flakes in each bowl. Be careful because it is pretty spicy!
- If you are expecting some dear or important guests, you can amaze them with Pampushki. Pampushki are small dinner rolls, baked and while still hot, spread with a mix of: For the 16 Pampushkis you will need: freshly ground black papper to taste, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of sunflower (or vegetable) oil, and a few drops of water. Since I had the reserved duck fat, I rendered it and used instead of oil.
For the Pampushki: Makes 16
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups bread flour
- Mix together warm water, yeast and sugar and let stand for about 10 minutes. In large bowl, combine yeast mixture with oil, salt and 2 cups of the flour. Stir well to combine.
- Stir in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, kneading well after each addition. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
- Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough in and turn to coat with oil. Cover with cloth and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Deflate the dough and turn out onto floured surface. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces and form into rounds. Place rolls onto lightly greased baking sheet at least 2-inches apart. Cover rolls with cloth and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake rolls for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Spread with the garlicky mix and serve with a hot bowl of Ukrainian Borscht.
- You can also fill the Pampushkis with deferent fillings and serve as a snack or as a part of a buffet table.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Cheap Feast