Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to make a real Christmas borscht: part 1

Borscht! Beet soup, in other words, but the true Polish spelling is barszcz. Borscht is the name that traveled with Jewish immigrants, and sometimes refers to a completely different kind of soup. There's cold borscht, and Ukrainian borscht...

None of that. Today we will be making proper Polish Christmas barszcz. Now, you may be reading this and thinking, it's only December 7th. Why on earth would you make the soup nearly three weeks before the dinner?

Because that's what makes it taste so good.

Sure, you can get away with beet concentrate, or pour vinegar into the pot a day or two before Christmas, but that's just not very impressive or traditional, is it?

So. Let's start. Here is the step-by-step recipe for:

Traditional Polish Christmas Barszcz / Borscht

3 kg of raw, red beets
two regular or one extra large head of garlic
a couple slices of brown sourdough bread
a pot of lukewarm water (tap will do, if it's potable)
big glass jars (big enough to hold the sliced beets)
clean linen or cotton cloth
ribbon, string, or rubber band

Everything you need to make a killer barszcz.

Now, we're giving you a bit of a buffer here, but you will need to do this at least five days before Christmas Eve. The earlier you prepare the beets, the stronger (more acidic) the soup will be.

1. Peel the beets. Your hands will be red, but you can rub lemon juice on them later to wash the worst of it off.

Beets: peeled on the left, unpeeled on the right.

2. Slice the beets into the jars.

Of course, you could use less beets and smaller jars, but then someone wouldn't get seconds.

3. Add the peeled and cut cloves of garlic (don't worry if you don't like garlic, the taste dissipates)

No need to chop.

4. Fill the jars up with water, covering the vegetables.

Tap water is fine, you'll be boiling the end result anyway.

5. Slice the bread and put some at the top of each jar.




6. Cover the jar with a clean cloth and secure with a ribbon or rubber band


7. Stab some holes in the fabric to let it breathe, and leave the lot in a warm place until Christmas Eve.


That's it for now. We'll get back to these jars in three weeks to make the actual soup, but the trickiest part is over. Meanwhile, you can watch as the beets turn the water a deep, wine red...

(to skip ahead a couple of weeks and find out what happens next, click here for part two)


  1. Great idea, great photos and I can't wait to try it. I took a recipe off the Internet a while ago, but it is done in a couple of hours, by boiling the beets till their color leaches out. Also loved seeing your kitchen on my computer. I simply HAVE to learn how to get my digital pix onto my computer... Thanks fo

  2. My mom wants to know: "So the beets are raw... doesn't it spoil???"

  3. Hey Kat, I only just saw your does :P But that's ok. It's the process of fermentation.

    Part two will appear in just a few minutes.