Borscht

  • 2 tablespoons oil, such as sunflower
  • 2 pounds very meaty beef shanks (or other meaty beef soup bones)

    Borscht

    Borscht

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped, divided
  • 1 quart beef, chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 quart water
  • 16 ounces of canned tomatoes, chopped (use juice and tomatoes)
  • 4 cups sliced red cabbage (about 1/2 pound)
  • 2 medium beets, peeled and grated (about 3/4 pound)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dill seed and 1 teaspoon fennel seed, ground together in a spice grinder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 cup hard apple cider or 1 scant cup sweet cider with 1 tablespoon cider vinegar added
  • 3 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (or to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • sour cream or yogurt and chopped fresh dill, for serving (optional)

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot then add the beef shanks and brown well on both sides. Remove the shanks and set aside, then add the onion and 1/2 of the carrots. Brown these well, too, adjusting the heat if necessary so the bottom of the pot doesn’t blacken.

When the vegetables are browned around the edges, add the water and stock and stir well, scraping the bottom of the pot so the caramelized juices mix into the liquid. Return the beef shanks to the pot, bring it to a simmer, turn the heat to low, cover the pot and allow the mixture to cook for about 1½ hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone and tender. During this time, occasionally remove the lid and scoop off any foam and excess fat that has accumulated on top of the stock and discard it.

When the meat is tender, remove it and bones and set aside. Pour the stock through a strainer to remove the carrots and onion. Discard the vegetables.

At this point, the meat and bones can be returned to the stock and the mixture can be chilled in an ice bath then refrigerated overnight before finishing the borscht the following day. If this is done, remove the coagulated fat from the top of the stock and discard it before continuing with the recipe. If continuing straight on with the recipe, try to remove some of the fat floating on the stock before continuing.

Pull or cut the shank meat into chunks. Put the stock in a large soup pot and add to it the remaining carrot, the tomatoes, cabbage, beets, garlic, dill and fennel, bay leaf, paprika, and cider. Place a lid on the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer, then remove the lid and continue simmering until the beets are beginning to get tender, about 1/2 hour. Add the potatoes, salt and pepper and continue simmering until the potatoes are tender, about twenty minutes.

The soup can be served immediately, but it is even better if cooled and refrigerated overnight. Reheat if necessary, then divide between soup bowls. Garnish each with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and a hefty sprinkling of chopped fresh dill. Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8.

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