Borsch is probably the most widespread dish in Slavic cuisines. This type of vegetable soup got its name after the old Slavic name of beetroot – “byrsch” – the vegetable compulsory for this dish.
Borsch without beetroot is not borsch, even though all other components have been precisely observed. Green borsches, which are prepared in an absolutely different way, are not an exception either.
Borsches can be based on meat broth, and fattened with ham, bacon, salted pork fat, sausages, duck, or goose. At times it is cooked on fish broth. The borsch can also be vegetarian: flavoured with mushrooms, prunes, dried fruit, or purely with vegetables.
The major bulk of vegetables in borsch is made of cabbage and beetroot; besides, borsch needs carrot, onions, parsley, celery, tomato paste or tomatoes. It is possible to replace cabbage with beet leaves, rhubarb leaves, spinach, sorrel, cow-parsnip, etc. In some sorts of borsch potato is also added. That in a borsch colour of a beet has remained, and also for taste improvement add vinegar, sour kvass, lemon acid, a brine of cabbage or tomatoes. Before giving borsches strew small cut greens of parsley or fennel.
Depending on the combination of ingredients or the shape of cut vegetables the borsch is called differently: Ukrainian borsch, Moscow borsch, naval borsch, etc. Ukrainian borsch is cooked with lard and potato; Moscow borsch before serving is supplied with beef, a ham and sausages; naval borsch is traditionally cooked with bacon and sliced vegetables, whereas for all other kinds of borsch vegetables are traditionally shredded.
Throughout many years the amazing flavor bouquet of borsch provides it with appreciation of public in prestigious foreign restaurants with Russian cuisine. And it is no wonder; after all it is made of 18 to 20 various products and seasonings.
As a rule, borsches is prepared on the base of strong meat-bone broth. Most suitable is beef brisket with a marrowbone. The broth with meat and bones is boiled for 3 to 4 hours. By the end of cooking borsch should contain no more than 300-350 gram of pure broth for one portion, therefore before boiling one should take at least twice more water. It is also possible to prepare borsch on goose or chicken broth. Other meat should not be added to borsch then.
A typical feature of preparing vegetables for borsch is the preliminary separate processing of them. Beetroot, for example, is stewed separately from other vegetables, preliminary sprinkled with vinegar or lemon juice to preserve its red colour. Sometimes beetroot in its peel is baked or boiled half-done, and only after that peeled, shredded and put into the broth.
Finely chopped onion and shredded carrot and parsley are browned together for 15-20 minutes, and before the end of browning add tomato paste or finely cut tomatoes and continue to brown until the fat gets tomato-coloured.
It is very important to observe the sequence of putting vegetables into the broth, depending on duration of cooking. As a rule, potato is put 30 minutes, cabbage - 20 minutes, stewed beet and browned vegetables - 15 minutes, spices - 5-7 minutes, and garlic - 2 minutes before the borsch is ready.
One should remember that while browning, stewing and boiling of vegetables and roots in open utensils, aromatic substances evaporate, and during strong boiling of broth the fats saponify, and so the broth acquires muddy coloring, unpleasant smell and taste, and therefore one should boil, brown and stew vegetables only in closed pans on small fire.
The main type of seasoning for Ukrainian borsch is lard. It is pound in a mortar with garlic, onions and greens of parsley and put it into borsch 2-3 before it is ready.
Some sorts of borsch have specific sourish taste: it can be cooked with kvass, or sauerkraut juice, or beet infusion; these sour ingredients can be added into broth, when meat is ready, and one should not subject broth to boiling afterwards.
To strengthen red color of borsch beet infusion can be used. For its preparation beetroot of the brightest coloring should be used. For this purpose beetroot is cut into thin slices or grated, covered with hot broth or water (2 l per 1 kg of beetroot), seasoned with 30 g of vinegar, brought to boiling, then infused for 30-40 minutes and filtered.
Some kinds of borsch are filled with browned flour to make the broth denser. When serving the borsch it is traditionally flavoured with sour cream, fennel and parsley greenery. General recipe of borsch can be understood on the example of Russian borsch.
Broth: for 1 kg brisket, 500 g bones, 4 l water.
Borsch: 200 g beetroot, 300 g cabbage, 50 g carrot, 5 g parsley, 1 onion, 50 g tomato paste, 25 g flour, 10 g fat/butter/oil, 5 g sugar, 8 g 3 % vinegar, 10 g sour cream, laurel leaf, pepper, greens.
Seasoning: 50 g lard, 10 g garlic, chopped greens, salt, and black pepper.
While broth is boiling, slice or shred beetroot and stew in a closed copper with fat, tomato paste and sugar. To help keep the coloring of beetroot one can add 2-3 g vinegar. To prevent beet from burning, stir it and add broth or water when required.
First stew beet at high heat and, when it starts boiling and settles down, minimize the heat just to support feeble boiling. Stew beet for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on its ripeness and age. Shred fresh cabbage and put into the boiling broth, add stewed beet, browned roots and onion and boil borsch for 10-20 minutes. Then add chopped potato and cook to readiness. 5-10 minutes prior to finish season borsch with flour sauce, spices (laurel leaf, pepper) and salt.
Before pouring borsch into plates, Ukrainian seasoning of lard pounded with garlic can be put on the plate bottoms.
Borsch with sauerkraut is cooked similarly, but sauerkraut should be preliminary stewed with fat. Wring the cabbage, and if it very sour wash it out in cold water, then put in a pan, add some fat and a little broth to prevent it from burning, cover it and stew for 1,5 to 2,5 hours.