Previously unmentioned on this blog is the wonderful Catholic art of food. If you’re Catholic, you’re likely to enjoy food, particularly certain foods at certain times. Whether you’re Polish and enjoy blessed kielbasa and eggs for the first meal of Easter, or you’re an Italian that looks forward to panettone at Christmas, chances are that there’s a connection between what you eat and the great feasts of the Church. And if there isn’t, why not reinvigorate these traditions.
Pentecost is almost here, and here’s a recipe to try. It’s red, and a little scary at first, but whose afraid of the big bad beet? In Polish customs, there is actually a white borscht usually associated with Easter. This recipe is for a red borscht, which though not commonly associated with Pentecost, seems like a good fit. Plus it comes from my grandmother, who emigrated to the US from Poland early in the last century, and she really knew how to cook.
6 small to medium beets
leaves of the beets
1 cup of sauerkraut juice
2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
8 oz sour cream
Cut off the ends of the beets but save some of the leaves. Discard the stems. Scrub the beets clean and slice into 1/4-1/2 in. rounds. Put the beet slices into a large soup pot. Cover the beets with water (plus a little extra) and heat. Bring to a boil – when the water is fully red from the beets, you can add the broth and sauerkraut juice.
Where does one get sauerkraut juice? Buy a bag of sauerkraut (Frank’s) from the grocery store and squeeze the juice out of the bag. You can cook the sauerkraut to go with the borscht. When adding the juice to the soup, you may want to add a bit at a time and taste. Usually one cup is good, but you may want your soup a little less or more sour.
Bring the heat down a bit, cover, and let cook for awhile for all the flavours to mix. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add the beat leaves. When you have the taste down, add the sour cream. It’s going to curdle a bit, just keep stirring and stirring. (You can probably avoid the curdle if you gently warm the sour cream in a hot water bath, but it’s not really necessary). When you’re done, it should look something like this.
That’s it – you’ve made borscht. If you want to be really fancy, you can put all this into a food processor, so that the beets get ground up and add a lot of texture to the soup. Remember though, this is a peasant soup – but with a gourmet taste.