Beloved cultural dishes from one’s childhood tell the story of who a person is and where they come from. In much the same way, branding tells the story of a product or service and its origins. Great brands, like great food, keep us coming back for more.
Although I was raised in Los Angeles, my parents always made sure we were reminded of the “home” country by cooking traditional Polish dishes. I remember that once we reached a certain age, my sister and I were encouraged to help in making a lot of the dishes, and most of my memories of bonding with my family are from holiday periods when traditional Polish feasts were prepared. The stand out star for me was always the beautiful beet-based soup called borscht, or “barszcz” in Polish. The smell of the soup still reminds me of my grandparents and summers in Poland as a young girl.
This ruby-colored beetroot bouillon is made by combining strained meat-and-vegetable stock with wild mushrooms and beet sour. In some versions, smoked meat may be used for the stock and the tartness may be obtained or enhanced by adding lemon juice. It may be served either in a soup bowl or – especially at dinner parties – as a hot beverage in a twin-handled cup, with a croquette on the side. Unlike other types of borscht, it is not whitened with sour cream.
Ingredients for the beet sour:
- Prepare the beet sour 4-5 days before you plan on serving your barszcz.
- Beet sour ingredients:
- 8 medium sized beets, peeled and cut into fours
- Allspice seeds (whole)
- Black pepper balls (whole)
- 1 head of garlic peeled
- 1 slice of bread, preferably white (for release of yeast)
- Caraway seeds
Place your cut and peeled beets into a large air tight jar. I like to use large air tight storage jars. Then, add 5-8 caraway seeds, 5-8 black pepper balls, all the whole garlic cloves (peeled) from the head of garlic, 3 bay leaves, and the slice of bread at the very top (you can squish the bread to fit against the side of the jar).
Boil hot water, and after it has been boiled, cool it for 10 minutes so that it is warm when poured, rather than boiling. Pour the warm water into the jar with the beets and all ingredients. The water should cover the entire mixture. Then, pour in about one teaspoon of salt to the mixture, close the jar and place into a room temperature storage area for 4-5 days. Over the next few days, the bread slice will release yeast into the mixture, causing it to begin fermenting and turning sour. You can taste the mixture for sourness from 2 or 3. If it is souring, it’s a good sign! After day 4, you are ready to make your barszcz.
- Beet sour mixture (instructions above)
- Allspice seeds (whole)
- Black pepper seeds (whole)
- Bay leaves (2 or 3)
- A piece of beef with bone (preferably rib) – you can also make this with chicken or pork but in my experience beef brings out the best flavor
- 1 cube of beef bouillon (again can be substituted with chicken or veggie)
- 1 carrot (wash but no need to peel)
- 1 small celery root cut and peeled
- 4 raw beet roots, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
- ½ head of parsley (tie up the parsley with a string so all the stems stay together)
- Lemon juice from fresh lemon for taste
- Salt and pepper
Fill a large pot half full with water, bring it to a boil and place the meat in to begin the broth. Cut your celery root and carrot in half and bring place them all in the pot, along with the parsley. Place in your bouillon and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let the whole thing simmer for around 45 minutes on low heat.
Then, remove the bread slice from the beet sour, add in the entire beet sour mix and your raw beets into the simmering mixture. The beet sour mix will bring in the flavor, and the fresh raw beets will give the soup a beautiful deep color. Let simmer for another 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, use a slotted spoon or spider kitchen utensil to remove the contents of the mixture – leaving just the beautiful broth. Now it’s time to spice it up some more to taste.
Depending on how you like your barszcz, some people add some fresh lemon juice at this point to make it more sour, some people prefer to add more salt and pepper, and some like it with a softer taste. I like mine deep in flavor and a bit sour. So at this point, I add some fresh lemon juice (half a lemon), salt and pepper, a couple more allspice seeds and two more bay leaves. I then let it simmer for 5-10 more minutes, and it’s done!
Enjoy piping hot!