For all you peeps that have never heard this soup before, let me introduce you. There's two main types and a bazillion different family recipes depending on where your family originated from. The Mennonite version is cabbage based and is often made with a soup bone or two. The Ukrainian version is usually beet based and is meatless. That isn't the rule, that's just the "usual" differences. Oh and I think the Ukrainian version is spelled without the t. It's pretty much a "grab veggies from the garden" soup.
Oh and if you don't know what a Mennonite is....well....in a nutshell, they're a people group that immigrated kinda from Holland, to Germany, to the Ukraine and then to Manitoba....and Abbotsford, BC. It's a long story...and there's a few books written. Up From the Rubble is the one that comes to mind first - it's written about my dad's family. Most have a Christian background but I dislike making that generalization. If you want the long detailed version....Wikipedia does an ok job
Luckily for me, not only is my dad's family Mennonite, I also grew up in a small VERY Russian/Ukrainian community called Grand Forks (southern interior BC). The mother of one of my good friends had immigrated from Russia so I got a good introduction to their native food.
Anyway, on to the good stuff. Here's the recipe - it's basically the recipe from the Mennonite Treasury cook book (the bible of all things Mennonite cooking).
2 lbs soup bones
2 quarts water (I think I end up using at least 3 or 4)
2 medium onions, chopped
4 or 5 carrots shredded
1 head cabbage, chopped finely
4 potatoes, cubed
10 whole allspice berries (we find ground is better...use about 1/2 tsp or a little more)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp ground anise seed
1 tsp salt
Pinch ground pepper (I use almost a full tsp peppercorns)
1 1/2 cups chopped tomato (my mom uses a jar of home made canned tomatoes, I use a big can of diced tomatoes....or leave them out completely...whatever works for you!)
1/2 cup heavy cream*****
***We leave the cream out and use sour cream when serving it****
Cover the soup bones with water and simmer at least 1.5 hours. Save the broth in the pot. Pull the bone out and remove all the meat from it, set aside. In your largest pot, use a little bit of butter and saute the onion for a few minutes. Add the cabbage and the carrot and allow it to cook down a bit. Add enough water to the reserved broth to make 8-10 cups and add to vegetables. Toss in your potatoes, tomatoes, meat and spices now and bring to a boil. Simmer until potatoes are soft and then some, to meld the spices into the soup...the longer the better!
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a squirt of white vinegar. Seriously. I know it sounds wierd but don't knock it until you've tried it! Oh yeah and a thick slice of fresh white bread slathered in butter. I'm a big advocate for whole grains, but nothing is better than a warm slice of white bread and butter with my borscht!
This Christmas I will be getting acquainted with some other Mennonite recipes and I'll be sure to share them all with you too!