One of my favourite delights of fall is making borscht with fresh vegetables. In recent years, I would visit the farmers’ market and the butcher to get what I needed.
This year, I was able to make this soup with my own harvest and the generosity of some neighbours.
Borscht is made many different ways. Some cultures don’t use any meat, some use pork, and there are many varieties of vegetables included besides the key ingredient of beets. In fact, there is apparently a variation of borscht made with cabbage and no beets.
One of the first times I made this recipe, I visited our local butcher and asked about some different cuts of meat – pork buttons, spareribs, or beef? He suggested beef shanks, so that is what I have used ever since. My family has always loved it.
I also use beets and some beet greens, onions, celery, garden-fresh carrots, cabbage, and some garden-fresh potatoes the neighbour gave me. I also ran short of beets while prepping this, so visited two neighbours who were kind enough to give me a few!
I’ve laid out this recipe a little different than other posts. I am going to describe it all, and then you can scroll down through the detailed pictures. The KEY to having nice red borscht is to set aside at least two beets that you will grate and add just before serving, along with vinegar and sugar. The other beets – at least two cups – are diced and thrown in to cook all day. The cooking blanches out the redness, so the extra beets with vinegar and sugar at the end are very important.
So start by putting the beef shanks in a big pot of water, along with a chopped onion, two chopped celery stalks, and four or five chopped carrots. Add a bay leaf, salt and pepper, and I threw in herbs from the garden – rosemary, oregano, thyme and parsley. Get the beef cooking while you prep the beets, potatoes and cabbage.
Peel and dice beets (at least 2 cups) and peel and grate another cup of beets. Put the diced beets in the pot and set aside the grated beets. I recommend wearing gloves and an apron to handle the beets.
If the beet greens are nice and fresh (as mine were), I also chop some of them and add them to the pot. Chop half a cabbage and add to the pot, and if you like, dice three small potatoes and throw them in. Get the water to a slow boil then turn down and let it cook for several hours.
When the meat is cooked, take the shanks out and cut the meat off the bone, cut it into small pieces, and return to the pot, discarding the bones and any fat.
If too much water has evaporated, you can put in a cup or two of hot water with some beef bouillon added. This gives it a bit of extra flavour. Check your seasoning and adjust to your liking.
When you are ready to eat, add the grated beets, two tablespoons of vinegar and one tablespoon of sugar. Stir it around, let it cook a little while longer, and then serve with a dollop (or more) of sour cream.
Borscht - beet and beef soup
- 3 beef shanks
- water to fill the soup pot
- 2 sliced onions
- 2 diced celery stalks
- 4 peeled and diced beets (at least 2 cups) – reserve 2 additional beets (see below)
- 4 thinly sliced carrots
- half of a cabbage, chopped
- beet greens if desired
- bay leaf
- salt and pepper
- seasoning to taste – rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley
Place all ingredients to this point in the pot and let it cook for several hours. When the meat is cooked, take the shanks out and cut the meat off the bone, cut into small pieces, and return to the pot, discarding the bones and any fat.
If water has evaporated, you can put in a cup or two of hot water with some beef bouillon added. This gives it a bit of extra flavour.
When you are ready to eat, add the following ingredients to the pot:
- 2 coarsely grated beets (at least one cup)
- 2 tbsp vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
The grated beets and vinegar ensure the borscht is a nice red colour. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.