Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Roasted Beet Bohemian Borscht!

All of our traveling about the country makes us hungry! On a chilly March day we were thinking some sort of Czech soup would be grand. As we rummaged through the cupboards, we ran across huge beets that we had purchased earlier and...forgotten about. Such serendipitous discoveries always demand that something be made.....and, how about Borscht?! It's such a tradition throughout Central Europe....for obvious reasons, beets and cabbage store well through the winter to make such comforting foods.
Our favorite types of Borscht range from the Russian types (often without cabbage, some served hot while others are cold) to Minnesota versions, particularly that of the now defunct Lincoln Del (two restaurants we used to frequent were in Golden Valley, MN and Richfield, MN). Years ago, after the Lincoln Del closed forever, we duplicated their borscht recipe and have those notes jotted down on a recipe card--one of the many recipes we brought with us to the Czech Republic! Of course, since we're in the Czech Republic, our version of the Lincoln Del recipe just wouldn't do, would it?! So, here's our new creation with some new twists to fit in the Bohemian countryside.

Roasted Beet Bohemian Borscht

There are many ways to cook the beets before using them (yes, they do have to be thoroughly cooked before making borscht, as the cooking time is fairly lengthy depending on the size of the beets). Our Mothers used to boil them for 1-2 hours, unpeeled and unwashed, in water until tender. Then, we would carefully peel them....the skins, tops, and roots would just slide right off easily. Other times, when more in a hurry, they can be placed into a pressure cooker and should be done in ~30 minutes. Yet another method is to roast them in the oven, after peeling them (use a peeler, not a knife, to do this!) and cutting them into smaller pieces so they roast faster. We chose this last method, cutting up two large beets along with 3-4 peeled carrots, drizzling them with a bit of olive oil, and roasting in the oven at 160C (~350F) for ~1 hour until tender and darkly roasted (be sure to stir these every once in awhile!):

Think of the glorious flavors that will permeate this Borscht....unbelievably delicious! Set these aside while we get the remainder of the ingredients ready.

Usually borscht contains stew beef but since we're in the Czech Republic where this is not commonly used, we opt instead for some pork stewing cubes to work with. On another twist, we discovered that we didn't have any cabbage either!  Horribilis!  Well, we'll make Borscht without it and see how it fares.

In a pressure cooker, we placed :
2 peeled, slivered onions
1 bunch chopped scallions
0.5 kg or 1 pound sliced mushrooms (maybe some wild fresh or dried ones from the Czech forests?)
83 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
3 fresh bay leaves (dried, if you don't have fresh!)
1/2 liter (2 cups) red wine (preferably a robustly flavored type...we used French Cote du Rhone)
~1 kg (2 pounds) diced pork or beef stewing meat
Place the ingredients in the pressure cooker and cook at 10 pounds pressure for 45 minutes until everything is tender!

Now combine this with the roasted beets and carrots.
Add in:
3 cans of tomato paste
2 liters (~2 quarts) stewed tomatoes, drained

Simmer all together in a stew pot for an hour. 

Then add
125 ml (1/2 cup) vinegar, preferably apple cider
83 ml (1/3 cup) bourbon
salt/pepper to taste, if necessary

Simmer again briefly to evaporate the alcohol.

Make yourself some fresh biscuits, top the borscht with local sour cream (or smetana; we used our locally-made Madeta) and....enjoy!

Sidebar:  Well....we discovered this to be one of the most flavorful borscht we've ever had! Most likely this was due to the roasted beets, carrots and not having any cabbage in it! After all, not all American 'chili' is made with beans...take Texas chili, for instance...they make a mean chili down there and it traditionally does not contain any beans (frijoli).
Happy Eating!

Disclaimer: This blog is not an official University of Minnesota or Fulbright Program blog. The views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations, or the University of Minnesota.


  1. Whatever happened to beet and beef borsht with sour cream?

  2. Duke,
    Well, as you can see on this posting that we couldn't obtain beef in the Czech Republic (or only rarely) and, thus, chose the alternative of pork. We did serve ours with sour cream (see the photos).