Before moving to the Slocan Valley of BC, whenever I heard mention of borscht I immediately thought of beet soup, that bright deep pink concoction often served with a dollop of sour cream… which to be honest I avoided my whole life. Well things are a little different out here in the valley. The Doukhobor population and culture is really rich here and I kept seeing this creamy orange soup everywhere… borscht they called it, and it was the exact opposite of what I expected. This Doukhobor borscht was bright and creamy, complex and hearty. I have enjoyed many a bowl, at community events and local cafes. I finally set out to try my hand at borscht making and I have to say the results were pretty damn good, considering I had no mama to teach me. I did however talk to many of my Doukhobor friends about how their mom’s made this soup, I also researched many recipes on line, and finall settled on one which I thought was most inline with the flavours I was after. Now making Borscht is NOT for the feint of heart. It is a multi pot multi hour process with many of the hearty root veggies being prepared two different way, in both cutting and cooking. It involves a whole lot of cream and butter, and some serious patience. And only now do I understand why someone might pay $15 / L for this soup, as I have seen it advertised often throughout my valley. Props to those Doukhobor Momas!
So if you are looking for a grand event of a soup making challenge, I urge you to try this out, I will post the recipe in it’s original form along with it’s source link, then below you will find the very few tweaks and thoughts I have from my borscht making adventure. This is one of those recipes I tried not to mess with too much, as it was all new territory for me!
Vegans beware… this is not for you.. however I think a nice olive oil in place of the butter and veggie stock in lue of the crazy amount of cream would net a really nice veggie soup… and I will certainly try my hand at a vegan version soon!
I will also note the book open in the background of this picture is The Third Crop by Rita Moir and it is a wonderful pictorial historical book on the history of my new home land, and we have really enjoyed reading all about the development of the Slocan Valley and the roll the Doukhobor people have played in making my valley what it is today!
but back to the borscht…
the recipe came from here “Traditional Doukhobor recipes”
3 qt. water
5 medium sized potatoes
3/4 cup (180 ml) butter
1/2 cup (125 ml) grated carrots
1 small beet
1 cup (250 ml) chopped onions
2 tbsp (30 ml) fresh chopped dill
1 cup (250 ml) diced potatoes
6 cups (1.5 L) shredded cabbage
1 tbsp (15 ml) salt
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
1/2 cup (125 ml) chopped carrots
4 cups (1L) canned tomatoes
3/4 cup (180 ml) green pepper
3/4 cup (180 ml) green onions
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped celery
•In fry pan pour 4 cups (1L) of canned tomatoes and mash. Add 1 tbsp (15 ml) butter and 1/4 cup (60 ml) of onions and simmer until thick.
•Place 1/4 cup (60 ml) of butter, 3/4 cup (180 ml) chopped onions, 1/2 cup (125 ml) finely grated carrots and 1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped green pepper into a frying pan and sautee until transparent – do not brown.
•In a separate frying pan, place 2 cups (500 ml) of shredded cabbage and 1/4 cup (60 ml) of butter and sautee until tender – do not brown.
•Boil 3 qts (3L) of water in a pot, add 1 tbsp salt, 1/2 cup (125 ml) chopped carrots, 4 medium potatoes halved, 1 beet, 1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped celery, and add 1/2 of the simmered tomatoes from step 1, continue to boil ingredients in pot until potatoes are tender.
•Remove potatoes and mash with 1 tbsp butter, 1/2 cup (125 ml) cream, 1/4 cup (60 ml) green pepper, 1/4 cup (60 ml) green onions, 1 tbsp dill, then set aside.
•To the pot in step 4, add 1 cup (250 ml) of diced potatoes, 3 cups (750 ml) shredded cabbage, 1/2 cup ( 125 ml) cream and bring to boil.
•Pour the mashed potatoes back to pot in step 4, bring to boil.
•Remove pot from heat and add remainder of simmered tomatoes from step 1, fried onions and carrots from step 2, the fried cabbage from step 3, add 1/2 cup (125 ml) green onions, 1/4 cup (60 ml) green pepper, and 1 tbsp dill.
•Discard the whole beet. Season to taste with black pepper.
•Let sit for a few minutes before serving to allow flavours to mix. Serve hot
*** Whew that is a set of instructions and this is no one pot chili! I did a few things ever so slightly different that called for… I only had 1/2 green cabbage and half of a red cabbage.. so my soup was a little redder than I was hoping for.
I was dreaming of a Fominoff style borscht (from a local bakery: Fomi’s Bakery) Theirs is less creamy more yellowy orange and that is really what I was after… next time I will omit the boiling of the while beet and I will also only use green cabbage.. along with more carrot and less tomato, in exchange for a veggie stock… also less cream would suite me just fine.
Having said all of that.. this looks and tastes like many bowls of borscht I have enjoyed over the last couple years, and I am sure if you are up for the challenge, you will indeed enjoy the results!
And to my dear friend Tash out in the foothills of Alberta, who first introduced me to this style of Borscht as she was visiting us and reliving her honeymoon dinner (at the borscht hut in Castlegar on route to Rossland)… Thanks Lady! miss you all like crazy! xoxo