This year for the first time, I made beet soup, Borscht for the Traditional Christmas Eve meal, not that I am a big fan of this soup but I have great memories around this soup.
One is the memory of my Dad's sister coming from Thunder Bay to the farm during the summer and being woken up early to the clatter of pots and pans from the kitchen. My aunt had been to the garden and picked fresh vegetables for this soup and was preparing the soup for lunch.
I always marvelled at the colour of this soup garnished with fresh dill. Rich farm cream had been added carefully to this soup when simmering to prevent it from curdling in the acidic broth as vinegar had also been added.
My husband loves this soup and had requested this as part of our wedding menu! My son had my Mom's Borscht recipe made and served in shot glasses garnished with sour cream and fresh dill at his wedding reception as an aperitif.
My Mom's soup was a work of art as her culinary knife skills were demonstrated by chopping the vegetables into uniform wooden match stick size. I never thought much about this until I tried to be as concise and uniform!
In making the soup, I studied recipes from old church cookbooks and followed the simplest recipe that would have followed my grandmother's recipe. The Traditional Ukrainian Cookery Cookbook by Stechishen used white beans and tomato juice. I am not sure that tomato juice or tomato paste was available when my grandmother made this soup and I don't remember beans in the soup.
The simplest recipe I followed was printed in the Holy Family Parish Cookbook in 1972 in Winnipeg. This recipe was the closest to my Mom's however, she never made Borscht for Christmas Eve or used mushrooms in her soup.
3-4 medium beets
3-4 carrots, julienned
1 medium onion, chopped
Dried mushroom, Honey Mushroom (Pedipanky), King Bolete (porcini)
2 cups of shredded cabbage
1 cup of cooked white beans
1-2 Tablespoons Vinegar to taste
Sauté the onions in Olive oil until softened, not caremlised. This is a step my Mom always did when making soups.
The beets were parboiled so as to remove the skin easily in cold water.
Fill a medium sized stock pot with water and bring to boil. This depends on how much soup you're making.
Add the sautéed onions, spices and julienned carrots to the boiling water.
Reduce heat and cook vegetables until cooked but still firm.
Looking at these ingredients, I kept tasting the broth and to my astonishment, it did have flavour. In fact, the recipe did not require you to sauté the onions or add mushroom.
I also left out the beans and cabbage as I do not remember them being part of my Grandmother's or Mom's soup.
I believe that my Grandmother did add dried wild mushrooms to the soup. I used dried
Mushrooms that had been soften in warm water. The dried Bolete mushrooms were from Europe and needed to be washed a few times as very sandy!
Vinegar was added at the end.
The soup was garnished with tiny dumplings or Vuska ( tiny ears)
Tiny Mushroom-filled Dumplings (Vuška)
1 c white flour
1/2 c hot water but not boiling
Olive oil, splash
pinch of salt
Mix up the ingredients and let set for about 1/2 hour
I used a mushroom filling for the dumplings
Saute finely chopped mushrooms and onions until soften. Let filling cool
I remember being fascinated by this little dumplings as a child.
The other thing is I do not think she cooked them in the beet broth as my dumplings took on the color of the broth. Hers were white little packages floating on this beautiful colored broth.
Check out the white dumplings in the pisney Borscht, yes boil them in water first before adding to the Borscht