|Place of origin||Ukraine|
|Associated national cuisine||Various East European cuisines|
|Serving temperature||Hot or cold|
Borscht is a soup of Ukrainian origin that is popular in many Eastern and Central European cuisines, including those of Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and Russia. In most of these countries, it is made with beetroot as the main ingredient. In some countries, tomato is used as the main ingredient, while beetroot acts as a secondary ingredient. Other varieties that do not use beetroot also exist, such as the tomato paste-based orange borscht and green borscht (sorrel soup). Potatoes and cabbage are also standard; some regions have green borscht, where green spinach is substituted for the cabbage.
The English word borscht, also spelled borsch, borsht, or bortsch, comes from Yiddish באָרשט (borsht), which derives from Ukrainian or Russian борщ (borshch). The latter, together with cognates in other Slavic languages, comes from Proto-Slavic *bŭrščǐ 'hogweed', and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *bhr̥sti- < *bhares-/bhores- 'point, stubble'. Common hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) was the soup's principal ingredient before it was replaced with other vegetables, notably beetroot. The beetroot borscht was invented in what is now Ukraine and first brought to North America by Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe.
Hot and cold borscht
The two main variants of borscht are generally referred to as hot and cold. Both are based on beets, but are otherwise prepared and served differently.
Hot borscht, the kind most popular in the majority of cultures, is a hearty soup. It is almost always made with a beef or pork broth. It usually contains heavy starchy vegetables including potatoes and beets, but may also contain carrots and peppers. It may be eaten as a meal in itself, but is usually eaten as an appetizer with dark rye bread.
Borscht is served cold in many different culinary traditions, including Belarusian (Chaładnik, Хaлaднiк), Latvian (Aukstā zupa), Lithuanian (Šaltibarščiai), Polish (Chłodnik, Chłodnik litewski, Chłodnik wileński), Russian (Svekolnik, Свекольник) and Ukrainian (Kholodnyk, Холодник). Other cooked soups are served cold in various parts of Europe, such as Hungarian cold tomato and cucumber soups, and sour cherry soup (meggyleves).
Its preparation starts with young beets being chopped and boiled, together with their leaves when available. After cooling down, sour cream, soured milk, kefir, yogurt, or butter milk may be added, depending on regional preferences. Typically, raw chopped vegetables, such as radishes or cucumbers, are added and the soup is garnished and flavored with dill or parsley. Chopped, hard-boiled eggs are often added. The soup has a rich pink color which varies in intensity depending on the ratio of beets to dairy ingredients.
The basic Polish borscht (barszcz) recipe includes red beetroot, onions, garlic, and other vegetables, such as carrots and celery or root parsley. The ingredients are cooked for some time together to produce a clear broth (when strained), and the soup is then served as bouillon in cups or in other ways. Some recipes include bacon, as well, which gives the soup a distinctive "smoky" taste. Other way to achieve "smoky" flavor is to boil borscht with broth left after cooking homemade smoked ham.
Other versions are richer and include meat and cut vegetables of various kinds, with beetroot not necessarily dominating (though this soup is not always called barszcz, but rather beetroot soup). This variation of barszcz is not strained, and the vegetable contents are left in. Such soup can constitute the main course of a Polish obiad (the main meal eaten in the early afternoon).
Barszcz in its strictly vegetarian version is the first course during the Christmas Eve feast, served with ravioli-type dumplings called uszka (lit. "little ears") with mushroom filling (sauerkraut can be used, as well, again depending on the family tradition). Typically, this version does not include any meat ingredients, although some variants do.
The beet basis is not required. There is a sour rye soup called żurek; the wheat-flour-based variant of this soup is called barszcz biały ("white barszcz"), made from a base of fermented wheat, usually added to a broth of boiled white fresh sausage (biała kiełbasa). It is served hot with cubed rye bread and diced hard-boiled eggs added to the broth, and horseradish is often added to taste.
A key component to the taste of barszcz is acidity. While it can be made easily within a few hours by simply cooking the ingredients and adding vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid, the traditional way is to prepare barszcz several days in advance and to allow it to naturally sour. Depending on the technique, the level of acidity required, and the ingredients available, barszcz takes three to seven days to prepare in this way.
In Romanian cuisine, it is the name for any sour, hearty soup, prepared usually with a fermented liquid, which is also called borș and gives it its sour taste. This ingredient consists of wheat or barley bran, sometimes sugar beet, fermented in water - a slightly yellowish liquid which can also be drunk as such. In fact, Romanian gastronomy uses with hardly any discrimination the Turkish word ciorbă, borș or, sometimes, zeamă ("soup") or acritură (based on the word for "sour").
Romanian borș recipes can include various kinds of vegetables and any kind of meat, including fish. "Borș/ciorbă de perişoare" (a broth with meatballs) is quite common, while the Ukrainian-type borscht is usually called borș rusesc (Russian borș soup) or ciorbă de sfeclă roşie (red beetroot soup). One ingredient required in all recipes by Romanian tradition is lovage leaves, which have a characteristic flavour and significantly improves the soup's aroma.
Other regional recipes
There are local variations in the basic borscht recipe:
- In Armenian cuisine, it is served warm with fresh sour cream.
- In Assyrian cuisine, it contains beets, beef, and cabbage, and is served warm.
- In Azerbaijani cuisine, it is served hot and it usually includes beets, potatoes and cabbage, and optionally, beef. One soup spoon of plain yogurt is added on top, as typically served in Azerbaijan.
- In Belarusian cuisine, the tomatoes are standard, sometimes in addition to beets. It is usually served with smetana (Eastern European-style sour cream) and a traditional accompaniment of pampushki (sing. pampushka), small hot breads topped with fresh chopped garlic.
- In Chinese cuisine, it is known as luósòng (i.e. "Russian") soup. Tomatoes and tomato paste are used instead of beets, in addition to beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. It is similar to the Russian beet-based borscht.
- In northern Chinese cuisine, particularly in and around the city of Harbin in Heilongjiang province, an area with a long history of trade with Eastern Russia, the soup known as hóngtāng ("red soup") is mainly made with red cabbage.
- In Doukhobor cuisine, the main ingredient is cabbage, and the soup also contains beets, potatoes, tomatoes and heavy cream, along with dill and leeks. This style of borscht is orange in colour, and is always eaten hot.
- In East Prussia (now parts of northeast Poland and Kaliningrad, Russia), sour cream (schmand) and beef is served with the Beetenbartsch (lit. beetroot borscht).
- In Iranian cuisine, it is served warm with fresh sour cream.
- In Lithuanian cuisine, dried mushrooms are often added.
- In Mennonite cuisine, borscht is a cabbage, beef, potato and tomato soup flavoured with onions, dill and black pepper. This soup is part of the cuisine absorbed by Mennonites in Ukraine and Russia. Mennonite "summer borscht" contains beet leaves, potatoes, dill, and sausage. It is made with a pork stock, usually made by boiling the sausage contained in the soup. Hard-boiled eggs are sometimes added. There is also a Mennonite borscht made with chicken.
- In Mongolian cuisine, it contains beef, beets, cabbage, potatoes and onions. It is served warm with sour cream. It was introduced by Russians during the Soviet Era.
- In Russian cuisine, it usually includes beets, meat, cabbage, and optionally, potatoes.
- In Ukrainian cuisine, it can be a vegetable soup or based on either chicken or other meat bouillon. Traditionally borshch is served with pampushki and smetana. Main ingredients include specially prepared red beets, potatoes, carrots, beans (e.g. broad beans, green runner beans, butter beans or other varieties), celery, fresh or dried mushrooms (optional), herbs (e.g. fresh dill and/ or parsley), chopped cabbage, chopped fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce.
- Barszcz biały
- Borscht Belt
- List of soups
- Sorrel soup — in Eastern European cuisines it is often called "green borscht".
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