One of the foods I miss the most from back home is homemade, sour borscht – a dietary staple unique to Eastern Europe, in particular to Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, and parts of Russia. The essence of “borscht” in these countries is not beets, as it is commonly associated with, but rather the “sour” we add to the bone broth base. The “sour” – tasting almost like a combination of sauerkraut juice and kombucha – is made by old grannies in clay pots with fermented wheat germ, fresh well water, and a variety of esoteric herbs. It is a quite involved process, and most younger women don’t have the patience or knowledge to ferment it properly. I have been trying to get a starter going for a while, but besides simply lacking some of the skills and expertise, I am missing many of the herbs that my grandma used to add to use. However, a few weeks ago, our dinner mates for the night made soup with the lacto-fermented sauerkraut we gave them for Christmas. After my first bite, I was felt like I was in heaven. This was just like borscht from back home! I ate about – *ahem* – four bowls, and then asked for the recipe. Since then I have made it twice and tweaked the recipe to make it taste even more like home. I think this will do the trick, at least until I can manage to recreate an authentic sour borscht starter, or pull one over on Customs and sneak it here from Moldova (-; Here are a few reasons why I like sour borscht so much:
- The base – bone broth and lacto-fermented sauerkraut juice – is healing for the gut and replenishes the body with probiotics, vitamins and minerals.
- It’s alkaline!
- It is quick to make – about 45 minutes.
- It tastes even better the next day.
- Tastes delicious with or without meat.
- It is Gaps, Paleo and Gluten Free friendly!
- One onion
- 4 fresh tomatoes, or 3 cans of crushed tomatoes
- 3 tbsp of butter, or clarified lard
- 1 can of tomato paste
- 6 cuprs homemade chicken broth
- 4 cups lacto-fermented sauerkraut (see recipe), too busy to make you own? Here is a good resource.
- 1 cup living sauerkraut juice
- 4 cups Polish kilbasa or Hungarian sausage, optional
- 1 bunch parlsey
- Chives, one bunch
- 1/2 cup sour cream, or creme fraische
- 1 teaspoon of crushed fennel seed, find it here
- One pinch of sea salt and pepper, find it here
Makes 8 servings.
Remember: add the sauerkraut and the sauerkraut juice to the soup after the soup cools off to eating temperature, in order to preserve the sensitive lactobacili. Even when you reheat it the next day, don’t heat it past 90*. You want to ingest the precious bacteria while they are still alive.
1. Coarsely dice the onion.
2. Coarsely dice the tomatoes, or if you have crushed tomatoes just open the can and have it ready.
3. Get three tablespoons or so of either butter or clarified lard, and toss it in a large pot.
5. Once the onions and translucent, incorporate the tomatoes and tomato paste.
6. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to bubble.
7. Incorporate the chicken broth.
8. Season with sea salt, pepper and crushed fennel seeds.
9. Optionally, cut the sausage in small bite size pieces and add it to the soup.
l0. After simmering tho soup for a few minutes, leave it to cool off for about ten to fifteen minutes, until it has stopped steaming.
11. Incorporate about 1 cup of lacto-fermented sauerkraut juice.
12. Next, add 4 cups of lacto-fermented sauerkraut.
13. Finally, add about 1 cup of fresh Italian parsley.
14. I am a true Eastern European, so I think sour cream makes everything taste better. Serve the borscht with a few chopped chives, parlsey, and sour cream.
Recently, a friend of mine gifted me a hand made clay bowl. It is perfect for soups, and it is absolutely adorable!
This time, we served the borscht with a fresh, homemade spelt roll, and, of course, plenty of butter. Simple, nourishing, and absolutely scrumptious.