Borshch - A legacy lives on

By • January 13, 2017 0 Comments

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Author Notes: This recipe is about a dish that I grew up eating thanks to my Russian/Ukrainian grandma. It’s about her Borshch. A traditional dish that, although traditional in nature, was nothing like any of the Borshch recipes I’ve ever researched. I have only once ever come across a version so close to hers at a local Russian restaurant that I actually became emotional. Alas the restaurant closed down shortly afterwards and I can never go back and ask the chef about the roots of his version.

My grandmother grew up in hills of the Laurentians on a hectare of land along with her maternal grandparents in the 20’s. A working hobby farm that became my home away from home when I was growing up. It’s where I learned about the circle of life; where our food comes from and how to cook and appreciate that food. It’s where I was lucky enough to hear bits and pieces of her varied and colorful past over a steaming bowl of Borshch.

Every fall when I feel a chill in the wind I begin to crave her borshch. It calls to me, and although my Rock Star hubby has yet to warm up to it (maybe because of its pink color), I always make a big batch for myself. My grandmother would attribute magical healings to this soup. She would recount stories of people who were terribly sick, and how after eating this soup recovered, stronger than they had ever been.

When I was preparing this soup for my blog I was definitely challenged, as my grandmother didn’t write down recipes... ever. Her recipes were stored in her memories; her measuring cups were her hands, her fingers were her measuring spoons, and her nose was her guide; something I’m proud that I’ve inherited. When trying to document the recipe I used my sense of smell to determine whether I had the right mix of everything in the pot.

Although some of the ingredients from her original recipe have shifted slightly due to dietary restrictions, the true essence of the soup lives on. Gone is the full fat butter and 35% cream, replaced by Earth Balance and So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk.

The memory of my grandmother stays with me in the kitchen as I prepare it, and I feel her sit with me when I take a break to eat a bowl. I can almost hear her voice as I take a sip of this magical soup, and her life stories echo in my mind.
Theressa Cummings

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Makes large pot

  • 3 Celery stalks chopped into cubes; leaves washed and roughly chopped
  • 4 Medium sized carrots, grated
  • 2.5 cups green and yellow beans cut into 1" pieces
  • 4 Medium white potatoes, cut into medium sized cubes
  • 5-6 red beets, peeled and grated; Leaves washed and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Cane sugar
  • 3 teaspoons Salt
  • 1/2 cup Flat leaf parsley chopped
  • 3 Full springs of dill fronds
  • 1/2 cup Lima beans
  • 3 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Earth balance (or butter/margerine)
  • 1 Large onion, chopped
  • Non dairy cream or milk to taste
  1. In medium/large soup pot put celery & celery greens, carrots, green and yellow string beans, potatoes, beets & beet greens, vinegar, and salt. Cover all ingredients with enough water that it is approximately 2” above the veggies.
  2. Bring soup to slow simmer, and allow to simmer on stove (not boil) for at least an hour. It can simmer longer, ensuring potatoes are cooked through. Add in parsley and dill fronds.
  3. In a preheated frying pan add oil and earth balance. Sauté onions on medium heat till they are golden.
  4. Add onions & oil to soup when soup is finished cooking. Allow to sit in the fridge overnight so the flavours really have time to take...of course, I always sneak a bowl before I refrigerate it...I can’t help myself.
  5. The traditional recipe would call for the soup to rest and cool slightly before adding the cream; however; as I do not use dairy, and freeze some of the soup, I only add in my non dairy milk when I serve it. I add 2-4 TBS of non dairy milk / bowl, but please feel free to add to taste, if you add any at all.

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