Barszcz (Classic Polish Borscht)
Most Slavic countries have their own form of beet soup, a winter staple across Central and Eastern Europe. Barszcz, the Polish variation, is usually served as a clear burgundy broth with bright, wintry flavors. It is sweeter and beefier than Ukrainian or Russian borscht, and much less textural: Most vegetables are strained after imparting their flavor, though the soup may include grated beets or morsels of meat. This recipe is adapted from “From a Polish Country House Kitchen,” an anthropological cookbook by Anne Applebaum and Danielle Crittenden (Chronicle Books, 2012). Strain the vegetables entirely and sip the restorative broth directly from a mug, or serve the soup with sour cream and enjoy with pierogi.
- Serves: 8 persons
- 6medium beets (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled — 3 beets quartered and 3 beets left whole
- 1 ½pounds fresh or frozen beef shank bones, or other veal or beef bones
- 2medium carrots, peeled
- 1medium parsnip, peeled
- 1large white or yellow onion, peeled and quartered
- 1large leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise and crosswise, then rinsed
- 1large celery stalk, halved crosswise
- 8large garlic cloves, peeled
- 3large fresh or dried bay leaves
- 6dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
- 2teaspoons black peppercorns (optional)
- ½teaspoon dried marjoram (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Sour cream, for serving (optional)
Step 1In a large pot, combine the beets, bones, carrots, parsnip, onion, leek, celery, garlic and bay leaves, plus the mushrooms, peppercorns and marjoram, if using. Top with 14 cups water. (There should be enough water to cover all the ingredients.) Bring to a boil over high.
Step 2Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. As it cooks, use a small ladle to periodically skim off and discard any foam, impurities and fat that have risen to the top of the pot.
Step 3Transfer the 3 whole beets to a cutting board to cool. Strain the soup through a colander set over a large bowl. Remove the bones and press the solids to extract all the liquids, then strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean medium saucepan.
Step 4Once they’re cool enough to handle, chop the reserved whole beets into small 1/2-inch cubes. Stir the diced beets into the soup and season with salt and pepper.
Step 5Heat soup over medium until warmed, then stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve very hot in small bowls or even large teacups, which you can pick up and drink. If desired, serve with a spoonful of sour cream. Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.