Here's a disclaimer: I've never made borscht before. Nor, have I ever eaten borscht before tonight. But, what I made was actually pretty good.
Somehow, I stumbled on this show one day. It's been called the Russian "Jersey Shore." Sometimes reality tv can be so delicious and addicting. And then, I decided I needed to try to make borscht.
Borscht is a stew with beets as the star ingredient. For the record, I don't like beets that well. But, after my curiosity was piqued, I had to soldier on and make it. According to wikipedia, it grew from the scraps of cellared and winter vegetables. One of the reasons I love it now. The people who made it were feeding their families something very delicious from something that would otherwise be thrown out. Its common not just in Russian, but throughout Eastern Europe, with each country putting its own spin on the recipe.
I found a basic recipe. Since I've never made it or had it before, I figured it was best to stay simple. And this one was crazy-easy.
Classic Russian Borscht
1 cup cabbage, chopped
2 cups potatoes, diced
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
3 Tb butter
salt and pepper
2 quarts venison stock
1 1/2 cups pureed tomatoes
1/2 cup of juice from canned beets
1 cups of pickled beets, chopped roughly
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
dill and sour cream for serving
In a large pot, melt butter and lightly saute cabbage, potatoes, carrots and onions until vegetables begin to get tender, approximately 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add stock, tomatoes and beet juice. Adjust seasoning. Cover and simmer over low heat until vegetables are soft, approximately 15-20 minutes. Add the chopped beets and vinegar. Taste for seasoning. Simmer a few more minutes. Remove from heat. Serve immediately and garnish with a dollup of sour cream and sprinkle with dried dill.
I added a Tb of butter/flour roux at the end to give it just a little body. It would have been great with a big hunk of crusty rustic bread. And, for someone who isn't crazy about beets, it was actually pretty good. The beet flavor wasn't overpowering. It was hearty and slightly tart from the vinegar and pickled beets. That worked really well since the stock was so rich. I would definitely make it again.
The cabbage and carrots were organic, but not local. The potatoes, were from Preston County, WV. The tomatoes were what I canned last summer, bought from Crihfield Farms at the Capitol Market. The venison stock was from bones from a deer Jeremy killed this fall. Someone canned the beets and gave them to us, although neither Jeremy or me can remember who it was. The sour cream was natural sour cream from Kroger.
The recipe called for beef stock, but in addition to the recipe itself, making venison stock was an experiment, too. A few months ago, I read about making stock by roasting venison bones on Susy's blog. I am CONSTANTLY telling the Hubs that I want to figure out how to throw away less of the deer he kills in the fall. Seems like such a waste to throw away the rest of the deer after you cut out the hams and tenderloin. He brought home the hams, and after we cut the bones away and put the meat in the freezer, I threw the ham bones in a baking pan with some water and salt and pepper. I roasted it for about an hour at 300 degrees. Then, I put them in the freezer for about 3 weeks, although this isn't necessary. I just didn't have time to do anything with them then. So, last night, I got them out and put them in my crockpot for 24 hours. With a BUNCH of seasonings. I was afraid the stock would taste like deer meat, so I went heavy on the seasoning. But when it was done, it was mellow and surprisingly rich. Venison is so lean, but I was shocked how much fat came out in this stock. A lot. But fat is flavor, so I rolled with it. The crockpot is my favorite way to make stock since you can keep the temperature steady so easily and there's no need to really check it so often if its in the crockpot. I heard on Martha Stewart Radio on Sirius recently that the low setting on a crockpot is actually around 180 degrees, and high is around 300. So, when I make stock in the crockpot, I put some bones and water or maybe a splash of white wine on low for 24 hours with some seasonings. If the liquid is getting low, I add more water. The only problem is, my crockpot only makes about 2 quarts of stock when you put a bunch of bones in it. My mom bought a big countertop roaster this fall for Thanksgiving, and I'm thinking of trying a batch in it so I can get more.