Christmas is a time when we make many of my grandmother’s (Baba) recipes as explained by the story that I wrote in this post about her homemade pirohi. Typically for this weekend we prepare a European Cream of Barley Soup which is a soup filled with leeks, carrots, celery and barley swimming in a thin creamy broth. This year Dad was digging through some old recipe boxes and was inspired to switch things up a bit upon finding this soup that he regularly had as a kid. Baba didn’t make this one for Christmas but it was a staple at their dinner table once every few months.
With a simple grocery list in hand I set out into town with snow beginning to gently blanket the earth. Once at our local grocer I found myself standing in front of the beets realizing that I’ve never purchased whole/raw beets before! There were two sections of beets and the first were slimy, a quality even I knew wasn’t right. Thankfully the organic ones looked perfect – dirt and all. I chose two hearty bundles of beets with the roots and greens still intact and proudly plopped them onto the counter once home.
“How do we peel a beet?” and “what are we supposed to do with all of those greens?!” were quickly exclaimed by the fam. The internet is a magical tool that quickly gave us several strategies for removing the rough skin. We chose to use a peeler and hand peel them raw then we cut each beet into cubes. Thankfully we did know enough to stay away from wooden cutting boards and utensils as Dad has turned many of those perma-red in the past through the process of making borscht. As for our second dilemma we were perplexed. We had no idea what to do with the remaining beet roots and greens. So – I look to you all for advice here! There seems to be such potential with these beauties.
The beets, beef, potatoes, and cabbage all simmer together over low heat for a few hours and the flavors meld together perfectly. Once cooked the final step is to add cream and vinegar. You can slightly adjust the vinegar if you’d like a bit more in the final dish. Then, the borscht is served warm with a dollop of sour cream on the side of the bowl, and as dad said “that’s just where it goes. Not in the middle, you have to put it on the side.”
The leftovers can be reheated slowly the next day (on low to ensure the cream doesn’t curdle). As a true endorsement of this soup everyone went back for seconds including my husband, who is a self-proclaimed beet skeptic!
Recipe makes enough for about 10 – 12 bowls.
- 2 lb beef (cubed)
- 2 quarts of water
- 5 beets (medium)
- 5 potatoes (medium)
- 2 carrots (medium)
- 1 onion (medium)
- 1/4 head green cabbage – finely cut
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons vinegar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch (to thicken)
- 1 pint whipping cream
Steps and Notes:
- Cut the beets and potatoes into fine cubes that are similar size
- Note: We wished to have cut them a bit smaller than the image above
- Cube the beef and parboil for about 30 minutes
- Add the beets, diced carrots, finely cut cabbage, chopped onions, and salt and cook on low for about 2 hours.
- When finished cooking add whipping cream and vinegar.
- When serving add a dollop of sour cream on the side of the bowl
Thoughts for Next Time:
- The original recipe from Baba included 1 teaspoon of dill to taste but she didn’t like dill and didn’t add it. I agree about the dill and have left it out, but others may disagree.
- If adjusting the recipe make sure to keep the ratio of 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 quart of water. Add a dash more to adjust the flavor if necessary.