Great borscht soup recipeTuesday, December 11
With the passing of Labour Day and the kids going back to school, it’s time to face reality. The air is getting cooler and the thermometer is inching ever closer to zero at night.
Inevitably if I don’t act now I will wake up one morning soon to frosty windows and a crunchy garden. I’m not one to want to risk wasting food, so this past weekend I set about calling it a season and collecting what was left of my garden.
Now I know that the diehards out there would tell you that things like beets, carrots, and potatoes can hang around well into the first frost in an effort to get every last moment out of the short Canadian growing season, but I’m not much for having to be digging up my potatoes in my long johns and winter toque.
This spring I made a trip out to Salisbury Greenhouse where I met with Rob Sproule, one of the two brothers that make that wonderful place tick. He shared with me some tips for growing success in the Edmonton climate and offered some suggestions for what crops to try and what crops to avoid. With a box full of seeds in tow, I set about conducting my own little gardening experiment. I wanted to determine just how well I could do and if, in fact it was worth all of the effort.
I tried to find the balance of things that the whole family would enjoy, while throwing in a few funs ingredients just for my wife and I. We planted the garden just after May long weekend and it started off great. It was shaping up to be a bountiful harvest, that is, until the great hail storm of July hit and flattened most of the yard. We managed to make the most of that mess and salvage what we could, but the summer’s weather certainly made for some challenging gardening. After some 16 weeks in the ground this is how things turned out.
I have only included the cost of the seeds and didn’t factor in my labour or the cost of watering. To determine the comparative price I used the most reasonably priced similar produce found at our local farmer’s markets. I figured that was the most comparable price point to use.
As you can see, some things turned out exceptionally and others did not. My potato plants grew waste high, bigger than I had ever seen. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, they yellowed and fell over. I am sure that if they had grown like they should have for the last 30 days, my yield would have doubled. I had no success with my tomato plants this year. I elected to keep them in the planters to chase the sun and be able to bring them inside if necessary, but that seemed to backfire.
The fierce winds knocked them over more than once, and the hail gave them a pounding. Next year, I will go back to planting them in the ground in the hopes they yield better results.
On the other side of the coin, I finally managed to have a carrot crop with a worthwhile yield. I think using the tape strips rather than simply hand seeding the tiny seeds paid dividends. I also think thinning the crop throughout the summer was a wise move. Then there were the beans. I almost couldn’t keep up with them. Some of the green beans looked more like Chinese long beans before I managed to pick them. Perhaps the most surprising crop was the spring mix. The brand I used was Renee’s Garden, and when I first thought about growing this I was skeptical. Spring mix is so delicate and fragile and I feared the worst, but it seemed to thrive no matter what the weather .
Here’s a recipe for a classic fall or winter dish that really lets the hearty beet shine. Borscht is a classic Ukranian soup that is popular in many eastern European countries. It can be made with a wide assortment of hearty vegetables, including potatoes, carrots, and cabbage, but the beet is almost always the centrepiece. Here is my interpretation of the classic, mine is pureed and a little lighter than the more classic, hearty, stick to your ribs borscht. I hope you enjoy!
2 lbs. beets, fresh from the garden
3 cloves garlic
cup canola oil
2.5 litres beef stock
cup white wine
cup red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp. FRESH dill, chopped
cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. Fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel the beets, and coarsely chop
Julienne the onion
Peel the potatoes and coarsely chop, roughly the same size as the beets
In a sauce pot, heat the canola oil, add the onions and garlic cloves
Sweat over medium-high heat until translucent
Add the beets and potatoes and saute quickly
Deglaze with white wine, allow to reduce, then add the beef stock
Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer until the beets are tender, 20-30 minutes, depending on the size
Remove the soup from the heat, using a hand blender, puree the soup, adding the remaining ingredients
You may need to adjust the acidity to your liking by adding slightly more red wine vinegar, it should provide a fresh acidity to the dish, but not taste overly acidic
For the garnish, combine the ingredients and serve a dollop of the sour cream over the soup