|Place of origin||Ukraine|
|Associated national cuisine||Various East European cuisines|
|Cooking time||3 hours to 6 hours|
|Serving temperature||Hot or cold|
|Cookbook: Borscht Media: Borscht|
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,[a] 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.
Ingredients and preparation
Typical Ukrainian borscht is traditionally made from meat and/or bone stock, sautéed vegetables, and beet sour, that is, fermented beetroot juice. Depending on the recipe, some of these components may be omitted or substituted.
The stock is typically made by boiling meat, bones, or meat and bones. Beef, pork or a combination of both are most commonly used, with brisket, ribs, shank and chuck considered to give the most flavorful results, especially if cooked on a high flame. Marrow bones are considered best for the bone stock. Meat stock is usually cooked for about two hours, whereas bone stock takes four to six hours to prepare. Meat and bones are usually removed afterwards and the meat is only added back into the soup about 10–15 minutes before the borscht is done. Some recipes call for smoked meats, resulting in a distinctively smokey borscht, while other use poultry or mutton stock. Fasting varieties are typically made with fish stock to avoid the use of meat, while purely vegetarian recipes often substitute the stock with wild mushroom broth.
The vegetables most commonly added to borscht are beetroots, white cabbage, carrots, parsley root, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes. Some recipes may additionally call for beans, tart apples, turnip, celery, zucchini or bell peppers. Parsnip may be used as a substitute for parsley root, and tomato paste is often used in addition to or instead of fresh tomatoes. The traditional technique of preparing the soup is to precook the vegetables – by sautéing, braising, boiling or baking – separately from the meat and only then to combine them with the stock. This distinctive feature of borscht derives from the practice of slow cooking in the Russian oven (traditional masonry stove, used for both cooking and heating), wherein the differences in cooking times of individual ingredients had to be taken into account in order to ensure that all components reach doneness at the same time. The importance of this method is reflected in the Russian language, where a variant in which all vegetables are added raw directly into the stock, is referred to by the diminutive form borshchok[b] rather than borshch. Vegetables are usually julienned, except for potatoes and zucchini, which are diced. The beetroots may be partially baked before being sprinkled with vinegar or lemon juice to preserve the color and braised separately from other vegetables. Onions, carrots, parsley root, turnip and other root vegetables are sautéed (traditionally in animal fat, especially lard or butter) and then mixed with tomatoes or tomato paste. Dry beans are boiled separately. Potatoes and cabbage are boiled in the stock for about 15 minutes before the precooked vegetables are added.
The dominant tastes in borscht are sweet and sour. This combination is traditionally obtained through the addition of beet sour. It is made by covering sliced beetroots with lukewarm preboiled water and allowing for lactic fermentation to convert some of the sugars present in beetroots into lactic acid. Stale rye bread is often added to hasten the process, but usually omitted in Jewish recipes, as the addition of chametz (leavened bread) would make the sour unfit for Passover meals. Sugar, salt and lemon juice may be also added to balance the flavor. After about 2–5 days (or 2–3 weeks without bread), the deep red, sweet and sour liquid may be strained and is ready to use. It is added to borscht shortly before the soup is done, as prolonged boiling would cause the tart flavor to dissipate. The beet sour is known in Slavic languages as kvas[c] (literally 'sour, acid'; compare kvass) and in Yiddish as rosl[d] (from a Slavic word originally referring to any brine obtained by steeping salted meat or vegetables in water; compare Russian rassol[e] 'pickle juice', Polish rosół 'broth'). Apart from its employment in borscht, it may be also added to prepared horseradish or used as pot roast marinade.
As the traditional method of making borscht with beet sour often requires planning at least several days ahead, many recipes for quicker borscht replace the beet sour with fresh beetroot juice, while the sour taste is imparted by other ingredients, such as vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid, tomatoes, tart apples, dry red wine, dill pickle juice, sauerkraut juice, fermented rye flour and water mixture, etc. The soup is typically flavored with a wide selection of herbs, spices and condiments. Salt, black pepper, garlic, bay leaves, and dill are among the most commonly used. Other aromatics often added to borscht include allspice, celery, parsley, marjoram, hot peppers, saffron, horseradish, and ginger. Some recipes require the addition flour or roux to further thicken the borscht. A common opinion is that a good borscht should be thick enough for a spoon to stand upright in it.
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As the home country of the beetroot borscht, Ukraine boasts great diversity of the soup's regional variants, with virtually every district having its own recipe. Differences between particular varieties may regard the type of stock used (meat, bone, or meat and bone), the kind of meat (beef, pork, poultry, etc.), the choice of vegetables and the method of cutting and cooking them. For example, while the typical recipe calls for beef and pork, the Kiev variant uses mutton or lamb instead, while in the Poltava region, the stock for borscht is cooked on poultry meat, that is, chicken, duck or goose. The use of zucchini, beans and apples is characteristic of the Chernihiv borscht; additionally, in this variety, beetroots are sautéed in oil rather than lard, and the sour taste comes solely from tomatoes and tart apples. The Lviv borscht is based on bone stock and is served with chunks of Vienna sausages.
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).
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.
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. 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".
- Belarusian: боршч (borshch); Polish: barszcz.
- In the Cyrillic script: борщок.
- Ukrainian: буряковий квас (buryakovy kvas); Russian: свекольный квас (svekolny kvas); Polish: kwas buraczany.
- In the Hebrew script: ראָסל; also Romanized as rosel, rossel, russel or russell.
- In the Cyrillic script: рассол.
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