Руслан Кузнецов (ruslankuznetsov) wrote,
Руслан Кузнецов

Russian Borsch – Old Traditional Recipe

This post is written by Alla to all our english-speaking friends. To read the recipe in russian, click here.

My mom had to invariably cook a 6-gallon pot of borsch every Saturday to feed a family of thirteen kids, of which I am the youngest.  On one of these Saturdays she was not feeling well and I had to take over for her. I was about twelve. There I was in the kitchen with an open door to the living room, where mom was laying on the couch, walking me step by step through the preparation of this deliciousness. In a few hours an aromatic pot of borsch was ready. So, here is the recipe of the traditional Russian Borsch, which has been passed down from my grandmother to my mother and stood the test of time for over eighty years.


3 carrots
3 onions
2 beets
3 potatoes
1 small head of cabbage
herbs: dill and parsley (after mincing you should have about a cup of each)
1 whole chicken (preferably organic, it really makes a difference in taste)
2 8-oz cans of tomato sauce (homemade is best, of course)
olive oil (or sunflower oil)
1 tsp whole peppercorns
3-4 bay leaves

1. I start with a cold glass of beer or wine, with speakers playing something upbeat (you are about to cook a russian meal, let’s put on Gorky Park). I usually cook a medium size pot so that borsch lasts for several days. There are two kinds of russians, the ones who love freshly cooked borsch, and the ones who like it after it sits for a day or two. You should try both version and decide what your preference is. This recipe is for a 7-8 quart pot. Here is what you’ll need (all veggies are medium size).

2. We’ll start with the broth. Fill the pot half way with water and put over high heat. Wash the chicken with all the giblets and throw it in the pot. Peel 1 carrot and 1 onion, cut them into 3-4 pieces and throw in a pot along with the bay leaves and peppercorns. Salt.

3. As soon as the water boils, set temperature to med-low so that the broth simmers. In 15 minutes collect all the scum. Some prefer to change the water at this stage (pour out the old water and fill up the pot with clean water, you’ll get a cleaner broth). I prefer to leave the water and just collect all the scum, as I think that it makes a much tastier broth. The broth will simmer for a total of 1-1.5 hours, during which you’ll prepare the rest of the ingredients.

4. Preparing zajarka (I couldn’t find a translation for this word, you’ll understand what this is exactly as you continue with the recipe). It’s best to pick large carrots, as they are much easier to chop.

5. One of my mom’s strict instructions was «Never use the shredder for preparing veggies for borsch. They don’t look or taste good if you do. Only lazy cooks do that» ;) Chop your veggies into long thin strips.

6. Pour about half a cup of oil over the veggies, salt and start frying over a med-high temperature. But keep a close look, so they don’t burn. The veggies need to fry well but not get soggy.

7. When the broth is about halfway through its simmering time, turn over the chicken so that both sides are boiled evenly.

8. After frying the veggies for about 10 minutes, pour the tomato sauce over them and turn the temperature down to med-low. Cook for another 5-7 minutes. The tomato sauce needs to evaporate some, leaving a think paste of veggies and tomato sauce.

9. After 1.5 hours of cooking the broth, take out the chicken. The meat should be separating from the bones.

10. You can use a cheesecloth, colander or strainer to strain the broth.

11. Wash the pot and pour the broth back in.

12. Peel and cut potatoes into whichever size and shape you like (just so it fits into a spoon). Throw them into the pot. Wait for the broth to come to a boil, then immediately lower the heat so that it’s barely simmering.

13. Meanwhile, chop cabbage and herbs.

14. In order for the potatoes to stay white in the borsch, you have to add the zajarka when the potatoes are almost done (about 5-10 minutes after the broth started to simmer). Also another one of mom’s strict orders: «It’s not pretty when the potatoes are red».

15. I like to prepare more zajarka than I need for the borsch. I leave some for snacking. You can spread it on bread (it makes excellent bruschettas), use as a pasta sauce, or just eat it with hard boiled eggs for breakfast.

16. It’s up to you if you want to add chicken meat to the borsch. I usually add just a little bit of brown meat, as it’s softer, and use the white meat for BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches (ask me for recipe if you are interested).

17. After you added the zajarka, add water to the pot until it’s almost full, and then add the cabbage and herbs. Bring to a boil and turn off.

18. Taste the borsch and add more salt if needed.

19. Borsch is ready.

20. On the side you can serve spicy chiles (lightly saute in olive oil, then sprinkle with Johnny’s seasoning salt and squeeze lime) or spread some horseradish, spicy mustard or sour cream on a slice of bread.
Tags: хозяйке на заметку
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