I'm brewing borscht today. The smells fill the whole house and it smells divine.
It's my great aunt Olga's famous recipe, one I painstakingly wrote out as I grabbed ingredients from her before they got plopped into the big soup pot several years ago now. She had never measured anything and so nobody could repeat her heavenly beet soup recipe. She scrubbed up the beets and I counted them, she went to dump in the dillweed and I stuck my hand under to catch and measure what only her hand knew to add, and on it went for half a day as she slurped and added, me catching herbs to measure and revising my notes as we went along. And so it is that I can make borscht almost as wonderful as Tante Olga's:
Cook a chicken in enough water to cover it until the meat all falls off and the bones almost float to the top (I even used one of my own old faithful hens for today's broth -- she stopped laying awhile back and I decided it was time for my children to learn up close and personal where their meat comes from, another post for another time...). Separate out the meat, discard the bones (or pulverize them to put in your compost or dig into tomato plants -- this, being bonemeal) and add water to make the broth equal 8 cups. If you only have chicken stock and no meat to use (as in you're cheating and buying your chicken stock), add half a cup of butter.
Keep the meat aside.
Boil 3 to 4 large scrubbed (but not peeled) beets in the broth until they're a bit soft. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the beets. You'll know they're ready when you run one under cold water and then squeeze it in your hand, the skin rubs off. At this point, remove the skin and chop them into smallish pieces (or grate them). Add them back in (beets will still be a bit hard), and add 3 cups diced carrots, 4 cups diced potatoes, 2 Tbsp dill weed (much more if it's fresh), 2 shots of tobasco (or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper), 1/4 tspn black pepper, 2 tsp salt and 3 onions, coarsley chopped.
Cook awhile (20 minutes or so). Add 1/2 head cabbage coarsley chopped. Add meat back in.
Cook about one hour until all veggies are tender. Add a few Tbspn of lemon juice (to taste).
Serve piping hot with a large dollop of sour cream in each bowl (don't stir it in, the melding of the cool sour cream with the hot soup as you take a wee scoop of cream with each bite is part of the experience). YUM!