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Cooking borscht and figuring out the appropriate equipment

29.01.2024 10:19

In modern cooking, borscht occupies a special place, often becoming the object of heated debate. Discussions of this seemingly simple dish can result in major online scandals with countless references to ancient recipes and the transition to mutual insults. Discussion of borscht often leads to passionate debate and rises to stratospheric heights. What other dishes can boast of this? Perhaps only “the right Olivier” or “the right pilaf”!

We choose to start talking about borscht with some caution. We considered adding warnings and disclaimers such as “the article reflects the subjective opinion of the author,” but decided, in order to save the reader’s time, to refrain from excessive political correctness and get straight to the point.

First of all, let's try to understand what Russian borscht is and what characteristic features are inherent in this dish. Secondly, we will decide to simplify the process of preparing borscht, taking into account the availability of modern household appliances in the kitchen in order to save time and effort.

Key features of borscht

One of the first sources we look at when starting to get acquainted with classic dishes is V.V. Pokhlebkin’s Big Cookbook.

Let's highlight the key points from the description of the borscht preparation process:

  1. Beetroot: It is an integral part of borscht, giving it its main taste and color.
  2. Broth: Usually prepared with meat, bone or mixed meat and bone broth, which is the basis of good borscht.
  3. Meat: Borscht can be cooked with goose or chicken broth, in which case the addition of other meat is excluded.
  4. Vegetable processing: Preliminary separate processing of vegetables, including stewing beets separately from other vegetables.
  5. Sautéing: Onions, carrots and parsley are sautéed together, adding tomato puree or tomatoes after a certain time.
  6. Adding vegetables to the broth: It is very important to sequentially add vegetables to the broth depending on their cooking, taking into account the duration of each stage.
  7. Fat: The main type of fat used for borscht is lard, which is used to season the borscht before cooking.
  8. Ingredients: Mandatory ingredients include cabbage, carrots, potatoes, parsley, onions, tomatoes, and additional ones can be beans, apples, zucchini, turnips.

Following these steps will most likely result in delicious borscht.

Historical reference

When talking about borscht, discussions often arise about its origins, exclusivity and even political context. It has become unusual that borscht, long a symbol of home cooking, has become an object of political intrigue and propaganda, and in 2022 was included in UNESCO’s “List of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”

Despite this, borscht lovers can always turn to pre-revolutionary recipes to see what borscht was like a hundred or even two hundred years ago. By analyzing old recipes, we can see the variety of ingredients that were used at that time, such as celery, fish or sausages.

It is interesting to note that the presence of potatoes in borscht is controversial even today. Experts emphasize the diversity of regional variations of borscht, pointing out differences in names and associating them with specific localities.

It may come as a surprise that in the TasteAtlas ranking of the best soups for 2022, borscht took 19th place, and Polish borscht turned out to be a representative of this culinary art.

Well, let's look around the kitchen in search of modern equipment and move on to preparing borscht.

Cooking borscht

Cooking broth

So, the basis of borscht is a high-quality broth, which can be made from meat, bones, or a combination of both. For example, if you are using beef brisket, it may take about an hour to cook. To prepare the broth, you need to take 3 pounds of fatty beef, rinse it in warm water, place it in a saucepan, bring to a boil, remove the foam, remove the beef, rinse in cold water and then pour in the strained broth.

Recommendations may vary; it is also possible to add meat sequentially, so that each type of meat is cooked as long as it needs: beef — 5-6 hours, ham — 2 hours, duck — 1 hour, sausages — half an hour.

You can add onions, carrots, herbs (for example, parsley stalks) and peppercorns to the broth. It is important to monitor the intensity of the boil and remove the foam in a timely manner to avoid cloudiness of the broth and improve the visual appearance of the dish.

When cooking broth, it is necessary to maintain a low boil and regularly remove any foam that forms. It is also important to monitor the water level, adding more if necessary. This may require regular monitoring and adding water.

To optimize the broth cooking process, a multicooker with a temperature control function can be used, which will facilitate the cooking process and maintain ideal conditions.

Multicooker Redmond SkyCooker RMC-M92S

Multicooker Redmond SkyCooker RMC-M92S

Therefore, set the multicooker panel to 95 degrees, add meat and set the required time. Due to the absence of strong boiling, foam will not form, and the water under the lid will boil away more slowly. You won’t need to constantly monitor the process — everything will automatically warm up, turn off and wait until you return.

In addition, if you need to boil the bones, you can put the broth on the boil in the morning and go about your business until the evening, when there is time to continue preparing the soup.

By the way, excellent broths can be obtained by cooking meat in a slow cooker or in a stationary sous vide. Although sous vide is not as common in home kitchens, if you have the option, why not take advantage of it?

Stationary sous vide Kitfort KT-2021

Stationary sous vide Kitfort KT-2021

Stew the beets, prepare the frying

According to modern recipes, it is recommended to stew beets separately from other vegetables, although there are also historical options that involve other methods.

In a soup pot, add 5 beets, motherwort, leeks, onions, cut into thin strips, and a quarter pound of lard or butter. Fry on the stove, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from burning.

You will also need two frying pans: one for frying beets, and the other for frying vegetables. Beets can be grated or cut into small strips for brightness and interesting texture in the finished borscht.

To preserve the color of the beets, add an acid such as vinegar, lemon juice, tomato paste or pomegranate juice. You can also combine different acidic foods. If they are not available, the beets can be baked whole in foil.

Although there are no obvious ways to save time at this stage, experienced cooks prefer to prepare the frying in advance, which avoids unnecessary labor costs later.

Thus, if you have extra onions and carrots in the house, it is suggested to prepare a large portion of frying, for example, in a wok. Then we divide it into portions, pack it in bags (one for each pot of soup) and freeze.

For convenience, you can also use small jars, which will have to be pasteurized and sealed, but a simpler option is freezing.

The same applies to broths. They can be frozen in portions and removed as needed. This is especially convenient given that many recipes contain instructions such as “use 100 ml of meat broth,” which can be difficult for novice cooks who do not want to cook the broth separately.

Preparing vegetables

To prepare the roast, carrots and beets need to be grated on a coarse grater or finely chopped. Pepper (if used) should be cut into small cubes, and potatoes into small slices. The cabbage needs to be chopped.

Everyone can choose whether to use specialized equipment such as food processors, blenders with attachments, etc., or cut vegetables by hand.

On the one hand, specialized equipment allows you to quickly cut and chop vegetables in literally a matter of seconds. On the other hand, you will have to remove, assemble and wash the equipment after use, which can eliminate the time gain, especially if several dishes are being prepared at the same time.

However, if you plan to prepare a large amount of borscht or other dishes at the same time (salads, pies, etc.), automatic choppers can be useful. This is especially true on the eve of holidays and family dinners.

Garlyn HB-330 Blender: 12 in 1 food processor

Garlyn HB-330 Blender: 12 in 1 food processor

Finish line

So, all that remains is to assemble the finished borscht. Bring the broth to a boil and successively add potatoes, cabbage, beets and frying. Five to ten minutes before the end of cooking, add meat and spices (sugar, pepper, bay leaf), and at the very end — lard and garlic.

In order for the taste of each ingredient to fully develop, the borscht needs to steep. Simply turning off the heat may result in continued cooking, which can cause the potatoes and cabbage to overcook, turning the soup into “porridge.” To avoid this, quickly cool the contents of the pan. We immerse it in cold water in the sink and then put it in the refrigerator. The next day the taste of borscht will be even more intense. If you plan to serve the borscht on the same day, try to let it sit for at least a couple of hours. Therefore, it is best to start with preparing borscht and only then move on to other dishes and salads.

But freezing ready-made borscht (unlike many cream soups) is far from the best idea. Potatoes contain a lot of starch, which does not tolerate freezing very well.

So, we conclude our guide to borscht and its preparation. Of course, the topic of borscht is rich, and each chef has his own secrets or unique combinations of ingredients to create “that very” borscht. However, following our guide, you can prepare both regular and original borscht. The general principles and steps will remain unchanged.

It is convenient to use a multicooker, gas or electric stove to prepare broth, and a multi-cutter to cut vegetables. Happy cooking!