My borscht turned into a very hearty soup, as my sister also included a zip lock bag full of cleaned and diced vegetables. It was a difficult week for me as I had a recall notice to a mammogram that I had done a week earlier. Even though I put on a brave front I was a little freaked, as I was diagnosed with breast cancer a year earlier, and went through treatment all winter and spring, I couldn't believe it was possibly happening again. Anyways , I digress, I just didn't want you to think that I was too lazy to cut my own vegetables, my sister was just being thoughtful and helpful as she knew I had other things on my mind.
Back to the borscht , as mentioned it can be made various ways, with meat, without, with cabbage, or potatoes or mushroom dumplings ( like I included) with sour cream,or without, as a clear broth or full of winter vegetables or summer vegetables. I think you get the picture that , you can really improvise with this soup. It can also be eaten hot or cold and still tastes great.
My MIL used to take out a bowl of soup , let it cool mix the sour cream into it and then return it all to the pot . This would turn the red soup into a lovely pinkie rose color. I prefer to keep my soup au natural, and let everyone decide how they would like to garnish their own soup.
When preparing the beets, you also have a choice as to whether you prefer to boil or roast the beets or just peel them as they are. roasting the beets adds a nice flavour and boiling them provides you with an additional beet broth. These methods also make peeling the skins easier without loosing much of the flesh. You can do this a day ahead, or when in a time pinch you can just peel the beets and add them to the diced vegetables at the same time. The recipe I am giving you calls for boiling the beets.
2 pounds beets
2 celery stalks
2 med. onion (i had leeks)
1 bay leaf
3-4 pepper corns
3 dried boletus or 1/2 lb. chopped mushrooms sauteed (optional) but i will include them in the directions
1 tsp. sour salt or lemon juice sour salt is a crystalized citric acid
salt/pepper to taste
fresh chopped dill
sour cream to garnish
If using mushrooms... soak boletus over night,cook in a little water until tender cool and chop, and reserve liquid for later use . If using fresh mushrooms saute and set aside to be added to soup after vegetables are tender. If preparing beets ahead, scrub and cover with water and cook until tender over low heat about 1 hour. Cool and peel, strain liquid and reserve for later use. (wear rubber gloves when peeling beets or you'll have purple hands).
Peel and cut up other vegetables. Add bay leaf, peppercorns, and boletus or mushrooms to vegetables.
Cover with enough water and cook until tender.
Add reserved beet juice to vegetables. If you did not boil beets ahead and just included them in the vegetable preparation, you may want to add some tomato juice at this point for added liquid.
Shred beets in food processor and add to soup. Simmer gently.
add mushroom liquid (if you prepared the boletus) citric acid or lemon juice, salt and pepper and bring to a gentle boil, then turn heat to low.
Taste, the flavour should be TART, mellow and full , adjust all seasonings including the tartness.
Garnish with mushroom dumplings (vushka)3-4 in soup plate, sour cream and dill. Enjoy!
The mushroom dumplings are optional, the soup is excellent without them as a garnish, usually we do not include them, but it just happened that I had some frozen.
Boletus can also be replaced with dried Porcini mushrooms.