Polish Red Borscht
Polish red beet borscht (or barszcz) is, as the name suggests, a Polish soup made from red beets. However, the traditional Polish recipe for the soup also contains a number of additional ingredients, amongst them, beet greens, garlic, onions, carrots, celery and root parsley.
Polish red borscht is typically a vegetarian dish which is made by preparing the ingredients, and then cooking them together in water or stock to produce a clear, well-flavored, broth. In the most basic variation, all the vegetables in the Polish Red beet Borscht are removed after cooking, as they are only used for flavoring. This vivid red broth is then use for further flavorings with a little sugar, salt, freshly ground black pepper, smashed garlic, couple of drops of chili sauce vinegar or lemon juice to enhance the flavor.
Another much-loved version of Polish red beet borscht is that which is served with ‘Uszka’, which are tiny, filled, dumplings. The stuffing for the Uszka can be made from meat or vegetables, but at Christmas, a vegetarian version is traditionally prepared for the Christmas Eve supper. When served this way, the broth should be crystal clear and rich in color, with the unmistakable flavor of the beets very much in evidence.
A similar, but at the same time, very different, version of Polish red beet borscht is to serve it as above, but omit the Uszka and serve with ‘Krokiety’ instead. Krokiety are croquettes made from pancakes, which are stuffed with either minced meat, cabbage or mushrooms, together with a mixture of onions, garlic, herbs and seasoning, before being coated in egg and breadcrumbs and fried until crisp. The Krokiety can then be added to the soup, or eaten alongside it.
For something a little more luxurious, Polish red beet borscht with sour cream is a real winner! The basic soup is the same as before, but with the addition of sour cream, it becomes smooth, silky and even more delicious. This creamy version is made even more so if you swirl another spoon of sour cream into it before eating. As I do! Another variation which is favored by many, is the addition of vinegar or lemon juice to give the soup a little acidity. Many years ago, this acidity was produced by allowing the soup to naturally ferment over a period of days, and whilst this method is still used by some traditionalists, it’s a lot quicker to add acid to achieve this effect.
Finally, one of my favorite borscht variations, is that which includes bacon. Not only does it impart a wonderful smokiness to the finished soup, but it gives it a whole new dimension of flavor – absolutely delicious! Once you get the taste of Polish red beet borscht, you’ll be hooked, and no doubt, you’ll want to try every version of it you can find. Bear in mind that as this soup can be prepared hot or cold, it may be served to you chilled to perfection – in fact, this is a particularly refreshing way to enjoy the soup during the hot, summer months. Alternatively, you may see menus offering steaming bowls of hot borscht served over potatoes, beans or hard-boiled eggs.
It’s true to say that Polish red beet borscht is not to everyone’s liking, but love it or hate it, there’s no denying that it’s earned its place as a much-loved, culinary classic!
You’ll find variations of borscht in different parts of the world – all using similar ingredients, but with quite differing results. However, in Poland, the most commonly found variations of red beet borscht are as follows; The basic broth ingredients are prepared, with meat and a combination of various other vegetables added to them. This produces a much richer and heartier version of the soup, as all the ingredients are left in the broth, and everything is eaten together. Very often, a soup like this will be served as the main course of the afternoon meal in Polish households, which is known as the ‘Obiad’. Learn more about variations of Red Borscht.