This recipe is as close to my late grandma's as I can recall. Although she had no mother to teach her cooking, went to Polish school before WWII, and spent her adolescent years among Polish/Ukrainian girls in Germany as an Ost-arbeiter, she still was the best cook when it came to traditional (Central-) Ukrainian cuisine. So, this borsch is still what I'd call Naddnipryanski Ukrainian due to number of ingredients and various cooking methods involved. I am also used to meatless borsch as we were not so spoiled in the waning days of the evil empire and meat was somewhat of a luxury to us, plus grandma preferred vegetarian borsch because it would stay fresh for much longer, unlike borsch with meat. My cooking was also heavily influenced by my time in NY where I've tried borsch in many a restaurant/diner/friend's home. Thanks to all my friends and places in NY.
- 1 gallon water
- 1 bunch fresh beets or 3 -5 fresh beets
- 2 -3 medium yellow onions
- 2 -3 potatoes
- 3 -4 carrots
- 1 head cabbage
- 14 ounces white beans
- 1 bunch fresh parsley
- 1 bunch fresh dill
- 1 (6 ounce) jar tomato paste
- 1 red bell pepper
- 6 -10 garlic cloves (the more the merrier)
- 1 dash salt
- 6 -8 black peppercorns
- 2 -3 bay leaves
- 1 -2 whole dried chili
- 2 -3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 -3 tablespoons vinegar
- Fill a large stock pot with 3-4 liters (a gallon) of water, add salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, chili pepper and bring to boil.
- Meanwhile, wash your veggies, drain and rinse beans, peel and grate carrots, chop potatoes, onions, garlic, and bell pepper. Chop onions finely, grate carrots on coarse grater, crush and chop garlic cloves.
- Wash the beets (separate and discard the leafy part) and add them whole and unpeeled to boiling water. While they boil on low heat, sauté in a heavy skillet with vegetable oil on medium heat chopped onion and grated carrots, until onion are golden. Add chopped garlic cloves and finely chopped red bell pepper, let them release flavor and add whole jar of tomato paste to the skillet. Stir well, and mix to blend the tomato paste in completely. Allow to sauté a few more minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.
- At this time your beats should be cooked already (depending on their size - usually 15-20 mins of cooking for medium sized ones), so remove them from boiling water and set aside to cool off. Add the rinsed white beans to boiling water and lower the heat.
- Now you chop potatoes and shred the cabbage as fine as you can. Wash parsley and dill, chop and set aside. Add potatoes and onions/carrots/garlic/bell pepper mix to boiling water, stir well and continue to cook on low heat. Beets by now should be cool enough to handle, peel gently and grate them on coarse grater. Add to borsch along with 2 tablespoons of vinegar (helps to retain that beautiful beet color and gives a slight acidic kick). Immediately add your shredded cabbage, cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add chopped parsley and dill, and more chopped garlic if you wish, and simmer covered for additional 3 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, and it's done. Let it sit covered for an hour or so to allow all the flavors to blend. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and a few pinches of chopped parsley and dill.
- Drop a shot of ice-cold pepper vodka and enjoy your borsch in good health!