Friday, 1 August 2014

Light & Tart Summer Borscht

We planted some beets this spring, in a spot that promptly got overtaken by weeds because we neglected it. Meanwhile, they are popping up all over near the spot where we grew some beets out to collect the seed last year. So now, as I wander around the garden weeding or doing other chores, I keep finding beets in odd spots. Once I had collected enough of them, I made this soup.

It's inspired by eastern European versions of borscht in which the beets are fermented for several weeks, in the same way as dill pickles or sauerkraut are fermented. I didn't want to get into fermenting my beets, so I just used the dill pickles I already have. Sauerkraut would be a little different, but should also work well. The goal is to have a thin, tart, refreshing soup. We ate some of it hot, and the rest of it cold the next day. It was good hot, but we agreed it really shone as a cold soup. I suspect that having it rest in the fridge overnight helped bring all the flavours together.

My beets are the offspring of 5 or 6 different varieties that we let cross, and I'm a bit surprised at  how many are paler than expected. There were a good number of Chioggia and yellow beets in there, I suppose. 

6 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time - 24 hour chill time

500 grams (1 pound) beets
2 stalks of celery
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
3 cups water
a fresh sprig of lovage or dill
1 cup pickle juice, or to taste
AND 1/2 cup finely chopped dill pickles
OR the same proportions in sauerkraut juice and sauerkraut
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim the beets, leaving an inch or so of the leaf end to hold onto. Peel the beets, then grate them fairly finely (while holding on to the end, which then gets discarded!) Wash, trim, and finely chop the celery. Peel and finely chop the onion.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot, and add the beets, celery, and onion, and cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the water, and a sprig of lovage or dill, and simmer gently for another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the lovage or dill.

Add the pickle juice and chopped pickle (or sauerkraut). Taste the soup, and adjust the amount of brine or salt as needed, and seasonwith some pepper. Allow the soup to cool, and chill, covered, until the next day. Serve it with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream if you like.

Last year at this time I made Swiss Chard with Garlic, Chiles, & Cranberries

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