Polish Christmas Recipes: Beetroot Barszcz

Polish-ChristmasMy father was Polish, and Polish Christmas Eve was our real holiday. We didn’t exchange gifts that night – but it was the most important part of our Christmas, being all about family, forgiveness, hospitality, nurturing through food, and most of all, Christ. It was a very sacred time for our family, the most special night of the year. We used to make a modified version of the traditional 12-course, Polish Christmas Eve feast, which during my father’s childhood on a farm in the mountains, used to include all 12 courses, including a fish course (but no meat).

We narrowed it down to two essentials – Barszcz (beetroot soup) – and Pierogi, which you put in the soup.

Let’s start with the soup – tomorrow, I’ll post the Pierogi recipe…

Christmas Eve Borscht

  • Potful of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4-6 large beetroots, chopped or grated
  • 1 large onion
  • cup of sauerkraut (optional)
  • 1 whole apple (optional)
  • lemon juice
  • salt, pepper
  • Dash of red wine (optional)
  • Chunk of thick bacon (optional)

Cook chicken stock (chicken parts with onion in water, covered and simmered for a few hours.)  When your stock first begins to boil, it is very important to skim off the white foam that forms on the surface.  When you have removed all the `scum’, turn the heat down to minimum, and cover. Simmer for around 2-3 hours, strain out chicken parts and discard. You should be left with clear broth, which you can then chill or freeze until need – or you can keep going and make the borscht. I usually start in the morning, and do it all in one day. (NB: If you don’t want to make stock from scratch, use 2 cartons of organic chicken broth.)

To make the actual borscht, heat your stock, add beetroots, bacon chunk and onion, apple, salt and pepper, and simmer for at least an hour.  Taste soup.  If desired, add strained sauerkraut or chopped, sautéed cabbage left over from pierogy filling.  If soup is too sweet, add lemon juice or red wine vinegar.    Add dash of wine, if desired.  Remove apple carefully, as well as bacon, before serving.

Serve with pierogies and side dish of sour cream (some people like sour cream in the borscht, some don’t).

My granddaughters call this “Pink Soup”.

Wesolych Swiat!

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