It may be springtime, but the winter chill is still holding us in its grasp. A big pot of hot soup is still the perfect comfort food to have simmering on the burner at the end of a cold blustery day. This is the time of year to take advantage of the end of winter and early spring vegetables and Borscht, or beet soup, is chock full of beets and cabbage, both cool weather choices.
Borscht comes in many varieties, served cold or hot, vegetarian, with beef broth or broth and pieces of meat. Every region has a favorite version, just like momma’s chicken soup. This version is to be served hot and is more typical of Ukrainian style including meat as a hearty stew.
Rich in flavor and brimming with meat and vegetables, make this soup when you have a day at home, as it requires quite a long cooking time, about four hours minimum and several steps but is worth every moment. It is even better the next day as the beets dye the soup a wonderful cabernet red that is perfect with the intense flavor.
Debra’s Beautiful Borscht (recipe by Author)
1 ½ Pounds beef shank bone-in (4 medium shanks)
2 Tablespoons olive oil for browning meat
1 ½ Cups yellow onion, diced
2 Stalks celery, diced
1 Cup carrots, diced
3 Cloves garlic, minced
1 – 6 Ounce can tomato paste
3 – 4 Medium to large beets, diced aproximately 1/4 ” pieces (approximately 3 cups)
2 Cups green cabbage, shredded thin
3 Sprigs of Rosemary, about 6” each
3 Springs of Thyme, about 6” each
2 – 14 ½ Ounce cans beef broth
16 Ounces red wine (1/2 bottle)
2 Cups water
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ Cup dill weed, fresh, minced for garnish
½ Cup sour cream for garnish
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1) Tie together the rosemary and thyme with kitchen string into a bouquet and set aside.
2) Season beef shanks well with salt and pepper. In large heavy cast soup pot, heat olive oil and sear beef shanks thoroughly on all sides. They should be very brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Turn heat to medium and add onion, celery, carrot and sauté about 10 minutes or until beginning to soften, scrapping up beef bits that have stuck to the pan. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Salt and pepper.
3) Lay rosemary and thyme bundle on top of sautéed vegetables and lay beef shanks on top of all. Mix together tomato paste, beef broth, wine and one cup of the water. Pour over shanks. If they are not mostly covered with liquid, add one additional cup of water.
4) Bring pot to a boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer one hour, turn shanks and simmer for an additional hour or until meat falls off the bone. Do not rush; this could take up to three hours total.
5) Remove meat from pan and cool until you can handle it. Shanks contain connective tissue and it should be easy to see at this time. Trim this away and discard (or save for a dog treat), then roughly shred the remaining meat and discard the bones. Set aside. Likely the bone marrow in the shank will have melted into the soup, but if it has not you can add this back to the soup for extra flavor if you desire. (The marrow will look like a gelatin substance in the middle of the bone). The onions, carrots, and celery will have cooked down to and combined with all your other ingredients to make a rich broth.
6) Remove rosemary and thyme bouquet and discard. Add beets and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until beets are just fork tender. Add shredded meat and cabbage and continue to simmer until beets are tender. Stir in the red wine vinegar to bring the flavors together. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and a generous garnish of dill. Serve additional vinegar at the table for those who like more kick.