Monday, October 13, 2008


I associate borscht with having babies. When I was pregnant with Jack, my caregivers were naturopathic doctors who gave the best care imaginable. (Thank you, Helen, of Wellspring Naturopathic Clinic!) To keep my immunity supercharged in the winter, they suggested that I learn to make borscht.

Later in Indiana, one of Sav's midwives, Mary Helen, served beef borscht as the centerpiece of a big party. We talked about recipes – with borscht there's a lot of room for play and taste adjustments. You can click on the Ball jar beets on the left to go to a website recipe with theme and variations.

(There's a lot of play in the act of childbirth, too. Click here to read more about midwifery in Indiana, concerning Jennifer Williams, the wonderful head midwife who helped bring my daughter into the world.)

I just made a huge batch of borscht – some for us and some for friends who are dealing with illness. Here's how I made it this time.

Borscht elenabella

I had frozen stock on hand, made from vegetable and meat scraps. I've gotten into the habit of using every bit of meat and bone, throwing clean food scraps into the freezer until I can make a pot of stock. Buy stock in a can or box? Never again: too expensive! And the homemade kind just tastes better. (Plus, I like the smell of soup stock on the stove.)

I bought local chuck steak at the co-op, as well as potatoes, beets with greens, cabbage, carrots, onions, and garlic. I'm using all organic ingredients, as this is a super immune buster for someone struggling with cancer – why make it with chemical additives? Plus, it tastes better. Food is our medicine here.

I thawed the stock and cut the beef into chunks, seared them, and threw them in a slow cooker.
I cut up onions, sauteed them with a bit of butter, then added them to the beef.

Meanwhile, lots of chopping and cutting during last night's episode of Mad Men: of beets, carrots, and potatoes. Once they were all in chunks, I roasted them in the oven for awhile, to soften them. You can also used the microwave to jumpstart your veggies, cooking them about halfway.

Toss all of these vegetables into the stock pot, and add the seasonings of your choice: lots of dill, a bit of cumin, some tumeric (for medicinal properties), sea salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic, mixed herbs. Add a bit of red wine vinegar...or maybe some red wine.

Then come the softer vegetables: grated purple cabbage and chopped up beet greens. Sometimes I throw in a can of diced tomatoes, or some black beans.

By the time you've prepped all of the veggies, the beef is ready. Add to the soup pot and let it all simmer on low heat as the flavors meld. Just before serving, throw in a handful of chopped broad leaf (Italian) parsley.

Serve with plain yogurt, creme fraîche, or sour cream: each imparts a slightly different flavor. A good loaf of mixed grain or rye bread with some cheese makes this a fantastic meal. Maybe you'd like a dark beer – or a white wine – with your borscht. Enjoy!

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