Autumn is here, and that means making borsch again. As is often the case with iconic ethnic dishes, no recipe is definitive. Every Russian family believes their borsch is the only right borsch, and broaching the subject on Russian cooking message boards can lead to some spectacular showdowns. Truth is, the recipe varies — depending on the region, the season and personal preferences.

However, there are certain basics that define a true Russian borsch. To begin with, the term refers to a category, not a specific dish. Any soup made from a fresh leafy vegetable is a borsch. Without qualifiers, however, the word describes a specific kind of borsch that has three main ingredients: cabbage, tomatoes, and beets. Other ingredients, as I’ve said, vary greatly — although whatever the variation, the ingredient list is typically long.

Most Russians are Orthodox, and historically, the observance of Lent was of paramount importance. This means that, while borsch typically contains meat, vegetarian versions are not unheard of. Kidney beans and/or mushrooms are typically added to Lenten borsch to enhance its flavor.

So here is my family’s recipe. A couple of things: do not add any sour cream during the cooking. Sour cream is added to individual bowls only at the table. Also, use the palest green cabbage you can find, the kind whose color actually tends more towards white or yellowish. Truly green cabbage leaves are too bitter and have to be salted and drained before cooking. More

Advertisements