The families of Moly and Nat, my daughter, Yvonne’s parents-in-law, came many years ago from East Russia to Canada. They lived in Montreal and Toronto before they settled in St. Catharines, On. Their cooking was a good example of canadian cuisine in general: a most enjoyable mix of receipes from all over the world blended with traditional canadian cooking. But, often they talked about things they used to eat when they were children and the Borscht came up frequently.
A Borscht is a hardy and healthy soup, a meal in itself. The next time they came to visit I decided to make one and asked Molly for the receipe. She gladly gave it to me. It was the Cabbage Borscht because they liked it best. There is also the “other one,” the one made with beets instead of cabbage, but the following is the Borscht Molly used to make.
2 lbs. stewing meat
1 medium size cabbage
4 memium size crystals of sour salt
pepper to taste
1. Cut meat, carrots tomatoes and onions into small pieces
2. Shred cabbage, parboil and drain
3. Combine all ingredients in a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and let it simmer until the meat is tender.
Molly’s Hint: Should you not be able to find sour salt, you can replace it with:
1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup ketchup and pepper to taste
When I did it, I got carried away as usual, left a few things out, added others and did things a little different all together. According to Molly, it was a delicious soup, but a borscht it was not! The next time I made it, I paid attention to a rule given to me by another cook: Always stick to the original recipe at least once before starting to change things.
So I did and we had the pleasure of getting to know the real Borscht. From then on, however, it was a slightly different one each time and this, in my opinion, is what cooking is all about— improvising and changing according to what you have on hand, like or can afford!
4 lbs. of stewing meat, cubed
1 medium size cabbage
1 bundle carrots
2 sweet peppers
8 tomatoes or l large can of tomatoes
2 cups of brown rice
Lots of parsley, chopped or dried
Salt and spices to taste – I use nutmeg, paprika and pepper
1/2 cup ketchup
In a large pot, fry the meat until the pieces are brown all around.
Cut the onions, the cabbage, tomatoes (if fresh), the parsley and peppers into small pieces and add it to the meat. Cover the meat and vegetables with water, bring it to boil and let it simmer for one hour. Add the rice, add more water if required and let it simmer until the meat is tender and the rice is cooked. Add the ketchup.
A variation of the above is Ruth’s Vegetarian Borscht:
Just forget about the meat, use more onions instead! Saute the onions until they are golden brown and proceed as before. You might want to increase the amount of rice to give the soup the same thickness. You will be surprised how savoury this soup is because of the fried onions!
Hint: By the way, all borschts like to be eaten with a dollop of sour cream. I also find that it is nice to serve a dark rye bread and butter with it.
Also, my receipes yield large pots of soup. If it is too much for one meal, freeze it. It never harms to have some extra soup on hand.
So here you have it — the real Borscht, the Borscht that wasn’t, and the pretender. Would the real one please stand up?
***Read Ruth Altendorf’s previous column