Today’s post is about a traditional borscht recipe.

What do you associate Christmas with? Turkey? Juicy baked ham? Casseroles? Christmas tree? 

Well, I relate Christmas to a steaming bowl of traditional borscht and hand-made dumplings. That’s because even upon emigrating to the USA, we still cook this scrumptious dish during the holiday season. We couldn’t imagine Christmas and New Year’s Eve without this European delight.

Some might think this soup is difficult to make. But that’s only an illusion. And that’s because beets can be quite intimidating when you look at them in the supermarket’s produce section. Nevertheless, all you need is some patience, and the possibilities of creating amazing dishes with beets are endless.

Once you wash the beets thoroughly and chop off the stems – half of the intimidation is gone. The second half is coming up with a good recipe.

As such, I’m presenting my old-time favorite traditional borscht recipe, which I use every year to create the most flavorful wonderful traditional borscht.

Traditional Borscht Recipe

Ingredients
4 liters (1 gallon) of water
3-4 kg (approx 7 lbs) red beets
2 pears or apples
2 parsnips
1 celery root
2 medium-size onions
8 dried prunes or apricots or dates (prunes are the best)

Spices
1-2 tsp sugar
2 garlic cloves
4 bay leaves
Balsamic Vinegar (to taste)
Salt/Pepper

Secret ingredient: few dried mushrooms

Method
1. Peel the carrot, parsley, and celery and cut them in half.
2. Wash the beets and cut them into chunks.
3. Put all vegetables, beets, onions, herbs and leaves, apples and plums or dates, and the secret ingredient into a large pot. I add enough water (preferably filtered water) to cover all the vegetables so that the water comes above three fingers. I add a little salt, and I let it simmer for about 45-60 minutes.
4. Next, I take out the vegetables, and I add balsamic vinegar to the pot (make sure you add this after the broth stops boiling). I add a little bit, then taste, then add more according to my desire.
5. I then add crushed garlic cloves and sugar. I add all spices bit by bit and taste the broth until it’s slightly sweet and tangy. I cover and let the borscht rest for 10 minutes so that all the flavors combine. Borscht tastes best the next day and can be frozen ahead.

*Warning: When the borscht is cooking, the kitchen smells divine!

Note: this soup unlike the Russian Borscht, is NOT served with sour cream. 

Final Notes
This red beet borscht can be served with homemade dumplings with mushroom filling, aka “uszka pierogi’ (ear dumplings). Or simply served on its own in your favorite ceramic cup. In Poland, when the borscht is served without dumplings, it is consumed out of teacups along with puff pastry filled with wild mushroom filling. On the other hand, large soup bowls are provided if small dumplings are present. Traditionally, the soup is made only once per year for Christmas Eve but we eat the borscht all the way until New New Year’s Eve. 

This recipe is adapted from Olga Smile.

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