A Russian beet borscht soup recipe, made extra hearty with sausage and a swirl of sour cream but also especially earthy and delicious as a vegetarian borscht.
Winter is the perfect time of year for large kettles of hearty soups and stews. Bubbling on the stove, they fill a home with an earthy, smoky aroma that seems to proclaim, “There may be snow and cold outside but we’re warm in here.”
The country of Finland is known for snow and cold. I was fortunate to call this northern land home while an exchange student and hold its people – and its food – close to my heart.
This borscht recipe comes from Karelia, a small piece of land along the Baltic Sea ceded by Finland during World War II to what was then the Soviet Union and is now the most western part of Russia. The recipe is adapted from the classic of Finnish-American cooking, “The Finnish Cookbook” by Beatrice Ojakangas.
Some borscht recipes call for cooking the beets and other ingredients, then blending until smooth in a blender or food processor. In contrast, this recipe calls for cooking but not processing the beets so the end product has considerable texture.
If you don’t have access to or time for fresh beets, canned beets are a more-than-acceptable alternative. And if you’re watching calories, omit even the small ration of sausage and the sour cream. You won’t leave the table unsatisfied.
a RUSSIAN BEET BORSCHT RECIPE
Time to table: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Makes: about 6 cups
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound beets, peeled and grated (about 4 cups)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 8 cups beef broth or vegetable stock (for vegetarian)
- 1 small red cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)
- 2 carrots, peeled, grated (about 1 cup)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 pound spicy sausage such as andouille, optional
- For serving, sour cream and fresh chopped dill, optional
Melt butter in a Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the beets and gently cook until soft and almost brown. Stir in vinegar, salt and flour, work in flour until all signs of it have been absorbed. A small cupful at a time, stir in broth. Add cabbage, carrots, bay leaf, garlic and sugar. Simmer gently at least 2 hours, add water or broth if too much liquid evaporates.
Close to serving time, cook sausage in a skillet until fully cooked and slightly crispy on the edges, slice into small bits.
To serve, place soup in bowls and top with sausage. Add a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with fresh dill.
VEGETARIAN BORSCHT Most times, I use vegetable broth, skip the spicy sausage and just enjoy the earthy beet soup in a vegetarian version. It's still hearty and the beet flavor really shines through!
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