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Uncle Roman’s Ukrainian Borsch

Clinging to my cultural roots, I decided that tonight’s dinner was going to be something that’s healthy, hearty and a reflection of my Ukrainian heritage; meat borsch!

It wasn’t done on the egg but I wanted to make sure the recipe was posted more for the benefit of my friend Ayako who gave me the idea as I was shopping for ingredients this morning.  So, Aya…this one’s for you!

Now, traditional borsch can be made several different ways…purely vegetarian (as it is for Christmas), with various types of meat (pork, beef, chicken), and with sour cream etc… What I’ll share today is my recipe that has proven incredibly easy and super tasty.

So here’s Uncle Roman’s Ukrainian meat borsch:

Ingredients and method:

  1. 800 grams of stewing pork (on the bone of course)

  2. 30 grams of dried porcini mushrooms

  3. 4 tbs vegetable oil

  4. 2 onions, chopped roughly

  5. 2 carrots, diced and chopped

  6. 2 celery stocks, chopped

  7. 3 medium beets, cut into julienne strips

  8. 2 medium potatoes, diced

  9. 1 can of white cannellini beans

  10. half a medium sized cabbage, shredded

  11. 1 can of Hunt’s diced tomatoes

  12. 1 head of garlic, minced

  13. 2 cups mushroom stock (from the dried porcini)

  14. 1 cup V8 vegetable cocktail

  15. 1/2 cup of Heinz ketchup

  16. 6 cups water

  17. 2 cups of pork stock (from the stew meat)

  18. 1 tbs white vinegar

  19. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  20. 1 bay leaf

  21. fresh dill (from your garden!)

Before you start, make sure you’ve prepped everything and I mean everything.  Honestly, it makes for such an easier experience when all you have to do is follow the steps one after the other without having to stop and cut something up, or measure something out. Generally, faffing about should be avoided!  A ready kitchen is the only way to go. so with that in mind, I assume you’ve got everything prepped and ready to rock.

Let’s start with the meat first.  This takes about an hour and you can crack on with the borsch while this is happening.  So here are the steps you need to take:

To brown the meat, get a large skillet and melt a good 2 or 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.  Season your pork chunks with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and then add each piece to the skillet full of hot melted butter.  You’ll see how quickly it browns so keep an eye on things just now. Flip the pieces and get an even colour on the flip side.  Once done, place the pork into a pot an cover the meat with cold water.  Bring the pot to a boil and simmer the pork for about an hour.  The meat will be falling off the bone once done!

Now, on to the borsch.  The fist step is to cover your dried porcini mushrooms with 3 cups of boiling water, place the saucepan on the burner and bring to a boil until the dried mushrooms are tender and tasty. Do NOT throw away the mushroom stock, it’s priceless and adds a wonderful earthy flavour to the borsch; you should have about 2 cups worth of stock left over.

In a large stock pot, heat up your vegetable oil and saute your onions, carrots, and celery until they’re “tender crisp.” Which means, don’t make them soggy! Once done, add your mushrooms, along with your minced garlic and saute for a few more minutes. However at this point, stop and take s sniff…takes me back to baba’s kitchen on Indian Grove!  At this point, add the julienned beets, diced potato, beans, shredded cabbage, can of diced tomatoes, cup of V8 juice, 1/2 cup of ketchup, 2 cups of mushroom stock and then add 6 cups of water. (Basically, you’re adding in everything else but the fresh dill, vinegar and the meat at this point.)

OK, so now you’re done the hard part.  Grab yourself a cold one and sit tight for the next 45 minutes or so. In the meantime, your pork should be just about done (make sure you set your kitchen timer right) and it’s time to “de-bone” the meat! Erm?!? Anyway, take out each piece and let it cool down a bit unless of course you have asbestos fingers.  I find that you want to keep the meat that falls off the bone without any effort.  The stuff that sticks heartily, leave it as it’s only going to be chewy and full of fatty cartilage.  Once you’ve got your meat stripped, plop it in the borsch, add the 2 cups of pork stock and add your dill.  Cook for another 1o minutes or so and then shut off the heat and wait for your loved one to come home from work.

To serve, simply heat up your borsch, place a dollop of sour cream if that’s what ya like and chow down with some fresh bread, a glass of wine and good company.

Smachnoho and let us know how it goes! – Uncle Roman

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