What You Didn't Know About Borscht

Borscht may very well be one of the most versatile of foods. While they vary in color, temperature, and ingredients, the types of borscht remain deeply personal (and unique) from family to family. The texture and consistency differ from bowl to bowl. Some debate what makes a borscht a borscht, why their family's version is the pinnacle recipe, or even the origins of the soup, but one thing that remains the same, no matter the household, is how immensely important the dish is for many.

Epicurious notes that the soup has "origins in Poland and Ukraine, but it is a staple across all of Eastern Europe." For many, the soup is a hot, shimmering red broth which is dotted with beet, cabbage, beef, and possibly topped with sour cream and dill. For others, the broth is cream-colored, vegetarian, and served cold. Some have buttermilk or other forms of dairy stirred in. Some are thick, and some are thin. Regardless of the type of borscht, acid is a really important component, whether from citrus, vinegar, or a specialty ingredient. In many cases, the temperature and ingredients may differ seasonally. Some have potato, some have tomato, and some have all different types of meat. Truly, the possibilities are endless.

What is borscht?

A New Yorker piece states that some specialty ingredients are often used in different borscht recipes, such as beans, garlic, sun-dried tomato, hot chilies, and even different types of bread. A unique Russian version contains multiple stocks and sour cherries. Some recipes call for sauerkraut or mushrooms, and others include plums and apricots. The New Yorker piece also notes that the one ingredient that is almost never found in borscht is anything seafood-based. On the flip side, any and all root vegetables are certainly invited to the party. Some are even topped with hard-boiled eggs.

Simply put, borscht has almost no rules, so the next time you're truly looking for a real "make your own adventure"-type kitchen scenario, choose borscht and don't feel constrained by what you add to your pot. Borscht's inherently malleable nature makes it the perfect meal to cook when you're feeling unencumbered by a recipe and want to let your ingenuity run wild.  It's all up to you.