Barszcz, borscht, borshch, are all names for beautiful beet-based soups of Eastern European origin. Beyond beets, there are few similarities between barszcz recipes from country to country, region to region and family to family. Many people typically think of a Ukrainian variety (barszcz ukraiński), filled with chunks of vegetables, and some with meat. There’s also chłodnik, a refreshing cold beet summer soup that is served with sour cream or buttermilk.
This barszcz is more of a broth, with small bits of grated beets on the bottom and is the variety that is always served for Wigilia, or Christmas Eve. This soup is usually paired with small mushroom dumplings.
Many other Christmas Eve barszcz recipes yield a sweet flavor. I don’t know if this is a regional variation or simply a family variation, but I did not grow up eating barszcz with any sugar or sweetness beyond what came from the beets themselves. To each their own!
- 3 medium beets (1 beet scrubbed clean, quartered; 2 beets peeled, whole) [roughly 500-600g or 17-20oz total]
- 1 large yellow onion, quartered
- 1 small celery root, or 1/2 large celery root (~200g or 7oz) scrubbed clean but unpeeled, quartered [if unavailable, double celery]
- 2 stalks of celery, cut into large chunks
- 1 large carrot, cut into large chunks
- 1 parsley root, cut into large chunks
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 10oz dried porcini or wild mushrooms
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 bunch of dill (stems for stock, fronds for serving)
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Vegeta
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
Gently rinse dried mushrooms under cold water to rinse off any dirt, then steep in a mug with 1.5 cups of hot water, covered with a plate for at least 1 hour.
Add 1/2 tsp of oil to a large stock pot on medium heat, and add onions with 1 tsp of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add carrot, celery, celery root, parsley root, garlic, dill stems, whole black peppercorns. Add about 15-20 cups of water or vegetable stock and cook for 10 minutes on high, then bring down to a simmer for at least 1 hour, but ideally 2 to 4 hours.
Strain out ingredients from the broth and return to heat.
Take reconstituted mushroom and finely chop. Add to broth along with mushroom steeping liquid (but careful not to add any dirt that may have settled on bottom). Add Vegeta, 1 tsp of salt, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Take whole beets and shred in a food processor or on a box grater using the larges hole. Reduce heat in soup to low and add shredded beets and vinegar. Cook for another 20 minutes then taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.
Remove from heat and serve with fresh dill and/or parsley and mushroom uszki.