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Kuban Borscht

(recipe, Jenny Holm)

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"Kuban" is what locals call the Krasnodar region of southwestern Russia, which is referred to in my essay about borscht. (Kuban is the name of a river that runs through the area.)


    1. 2 lb. bone-in beef chuck or shank, or 1½ lbs. boneless chuck or shank plus 2 beef marrow bones (about 1 lb.)
    2. 10 cups water
    3. 1 onion, cut in half
    4. 1 carrot, peeled
    5. 1 rib celery
    6. Small handful of parsley stems
    7. Small handful of black peppercorns (about 20 to 25)
    8. 2 bay leaves
    9. Salt to taste
    1. 4 medium red (boiling) potatoes, cut into ¾-inch chunks
    2. 6 Tbsp. butter or vegetable oil (or a combination), divided
    3. 1 medium onion, diced
    4. 1 medium green pepper, cut into 1-inch matchsticks
    5. 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
    6. 1 lb. beets (about 3 medium beets), peeled and grated
    7. Juice of half a lemon
    8. 3 Tbsp. tomato paste or 2 medium fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
    9. 4 cups finely shredded cabbage
    10. 2 Tbsp. red-wine vinegar
    11. 1 Tbsp. sugar
    12. 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
    13. Salt to taste
    14. 1 Tbsp. lard (if desired, for a richer soup)
    15. ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped (plus more for garnish, if desired)
    16. ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (plus more for garnish, if desired)
    17. Salt and black pepper to taste
    18. Sour cream (for garnish, if desired)


    1. Make the stock: Place the beef, bones, and water in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil, periodically skimming the foam from the surface with a slotted spoon. When the water boils, reduce the heat to low, add the other stock ingredients, and simmer until the beef is tender and the stock flavorful, approximately 1 hour.
    2. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside to cool. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a large soup pot. Discard the bones and vegetables. Return the stock to the stovetop.
    3. Make the soup: Add the potatoes to the stock and let simmer just until tender, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.
    4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté the onions, green pepper, and carrots in 2 Tbsp. butter or oil until just softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the vegetables to a large bowl and set aside.
    5. In the skillet, sauté the beets, lemon juice, and tomato in 2 Tbsp. butter or oil until just softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the vegetables to the bowl and set aside.
    6. Sauté the cabbage and vinegar in 2 Tbsp. butter or oil until softened, about 5 minutes.
    7. Cut the beef into 1-inch chunks. Add the beef, all the sautéed vegetables, and the sugar to the stock, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue simmering until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
    8. Turn off the heat. Mash the garlic, salt, and lard (if using) together in a mortar and add to the soup. Stir in the cilantro and parsley and remove the pot from the burner. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    9. Let the soup stand 10 minutes before serving, or, for the best flavor, chill overnight in the refrigerator before reheating to serve the next day.
    10. At the table, garnish each bowl with additional chopped fresh cilantro and/or parsley and a dollop of sour cream, if desired.