Sunday, May 9, 2010

End of winter soup

It got down to freezing last night in Fillmore County.  This morning Frank reported that there were ice crystals on the row cover that he had thrown over the potato plants yesterday.  We also have begun to harvest and enjoy rhubarb.  So is it spring yet?

I hereby declare that winter ended about five days ago.  That was when I decided to clean out the vegetable drawer in our refrigerator and make a big pot of borscht.  I piled up the odds and ends of root vegetables that we have been storing all winter: potatoes, red onions, rutabaga, carrot, parsnips, cabbage and beets.  Plus some wintered over parsley from the garden.  I brought a quart jar of canned tomatoes up from the basement too.   And last but not least I thawed a small chunk of pork shoulder.  It made me feel SO GOOD to be able to use up all these good vegetables.  Another week and they would have been headed for the compost.  I think I just may start an annual tradition - the end of winter borscht - when we say goodbye to the root vegetables and get ready to start in on the asparagus and morel mushrooms.
After a serious session of vegetable peeling and chopping or slicing, I brought about 3 quarts of beef stock to a boil.  You could also use plain water or pork or chicken or vegetable stock.  Then I added about 10 cups of vegetables (mostly cut into 1/2 inch chunks) to the stock, along with the piece of pork.  The proportion of vegetables doesn't matter so much -- just make sure to have enough beets to make the soup turn lovely red.  After the stock came back to a boil I turned the soup down to simmer until everything was tender.  Then I removed the meat, chopped it and returned it to the pot.  At this point you can season to taste with salt and pepper and a few handfuls of chopped fresh parsley.  (Dried parsley flakes are icky.  Don't use them.)  I also added dried dill (not icky) Fresh dill is wonderful if you have some.  Then comes the really important part - the part that makes borscht borscht.  It is the addition of red wine vinegar (or fresh lemon juice) and sugar.  For this quantity of soup I suggest starting with about 1/3 cup of each.  Add a bit more if you like a more intense sweet sour experience.  This soup is best made the day before you plan to eat it.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream, yogurt or creme fraiche and hearty rye bread on the side.  And kiss winter goodbye.
Note - you could make this soup without any meat.  If you do that, consider adding a few cups of red kidney beans for additional nutrition and substance.

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