Having a combined Russian/Mennonite/German heritage, both of our families remember ‘borscht’ being served at our tables. The term ‘borscht’ refers to an Eastern or Central European soup that traditionally has beets as its featured ingredient; however, in our families, borscht could star more than just beets – there was cabbage borscht, and … my favourite … summer borscht.
Summer Borscht’s light and refreshing essence reflects the taste of summer! It is a celebration of the summer garden – fresh dill, spring onions, new potatoes, and lemony sorrel. During the summer, no searching is required for any of these ingredients, except perhaps for sorrel. You either need to grow your own or know a farmer or gardener who does. This summer, I was thrilled to see sorrel as a regular offering at the Langley Organic Growers’ stall at our neighborhood market garden (West End Farmer’s Market in Vancouver). On each visit, I selected a bag-full of the long slender blades – either to use that week, or to tuck into the freezer for a winter reminder of summer days gone by. If sorrel is impossible to find, beet greens can be substituted. In spite of the many versions of this soup, the essential ingredients are smoked meat, fresh greens, and new potatoes…and it is imperative to finish with cream – sour cream, heavy cream, or crème fraise.
It was always a good day when Mom Helena had made a pot of Summer Borscht.
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 2-2½ hours
Number of Servings: 6
1 small smoked ham hock (about 1 ½ pounds/700 g)
Bouquet Garni: 2-3 bay leaves; 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns; 2 stems of fresh dill
6-8 cups (1 ½ – 2 litres) cold water
1 small onion, small-dice
1 ½ cups (375 mL/350 g or ¾ pound) small-diced new potatoes, like Yukon
golds, or fingerlings – no Russets; scrubbed, unpeeled
2-3 cups (500-750 mL) finely chopped fresh sorrel or beet greens
½ cup (125 mL) finely chopped green or spring onions
½ cup (125 mL) finely chopped fresh dill
¼ cup (60 mL) finely chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt; Freshly ground black pepper
Reserved cubed ham (cut from the ham hock)
Sour Cream – for a top-garnish, or to stir into soup before serving
Garnish of fresh dill
1. In a large stock pot, or soup pot, cover ham hock with the cold water.
2. Make the bouquet garni by putting the peppercorns, bay leaves, and the fresh dill in a mesh herb/spice ball (or wrap in a square of cheesecloth) and place in the pot.
3. Bring to a gentle boil; reduce heat; simmer for 60-75 minutes.
4. Add chopped onion to pot and continue to gently simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Add diced potatoes and chopped sorrel (or beet greens) and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
6. Remove the bouquet garni (discard) and the ham hock; set the ham aside to cool before cutting it into cubes
7. Add chopped spring onions, fresh dill, and parsley to the soup. Heat through.
8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
9. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche.