Beefy Russian Borscht

One of Eric’s favorite soups to eat is Borscht. He first introduced me to this recipe when we were dating, and I’ll admit that I was skeptical of the beets. At this point in my life, I think I had only had beets on one other occasion and I don’t recall liking them. I distinctly remember the first time Eric and I made this recipe together. We were in his apartment kitchen. He was working on the beets, because they’re so messy, and I was doing most everything else. I tasted the soup before we added the beets and even said: “This is tastes great without the beets. Do we really need to add them?”

What an insult to borscht! I obviously didn’t know anything back then! You see, beets are traditionally considered to be one of the main ingredients, plus they’re what’s responsible for the gorgeous dark reddish-purple color of the soup. (Unless you’re talking about Green Borscht, then you won’t be using beets. We have only made that variety once together and I think we both decided that red was the way to go because we haven’t made the green since.)

Anyway…we shared this first pot of soup with a few of my roommates and a few of Eric’s roommates for dinner that night. One of these roommates was my friend Nila, the one who I’ve mentioned visited a few weeks ago. She loves the borscht and asked if we could make it during her visit. Eric was just getting home that evening from a work related trip, so it was the perfect opportunity to cook up a pot of borscht.

There are 2 downfalls to this recipe, in my opinion. One being that the beets make such a mess. They stain your hands and everything so badly that anything they come into contact with ends up looking like something out of a horror show. It’s best to wear gloves and use a cutting board you don’t care about, but I always forget about the gloves and end up with stained hands.

Secondly, this recipe makes so much that I often grow tired of it before we’ve finished the pot. But don’t let either of those reasons prevent you from enjoying a bowl of this rich soup. All I’m saying is that for our little family of 4…as much as I love this hearty recipe, the smell of the house after it simmering the day away, and how genuinely pretty it looks, once per season is usually enough for me.

Beefy Borscht
from Slow Cooker Ready & Waiting

  • 2 T oil
  • 1 lb stew beef, 1″ pieces
  • 1 t salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots and celery, 1/2″ thick slices
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 medium beets, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 medium potatoes, unpeeled, 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 2/3 cups double-strength beef broth
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cups tomato paste
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 T light brown sugar
  • 2 t dried thyme
  • 1 t caraway seeds
  • sour cream
  • crusty bread

In a skillet, heat the oil, add the beef and brown on all sides. Transfer the beef to a plate, and season with salt and pepper. Add more oil to skillet (if necessary). Add the onions, carrots, celery, and bell pepper. Reduce heat to med and cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the water, stirring to scrape up all the browned bits in skillet.

Transfer to a large stock pot or crock-pot, add beets, potatoes, beef, beef broth, tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, vinegar, brown sugar, thyme, and caraway seeds. Cover and cook on low until meat is tender, about 6-7 hours.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a piece of crusty bread.