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In “Summer Kitchens,” Olia Hercules writes about the history of borsch, its importance in Ukrainian cuisine, seasonal and regional influences on the soup, and her own family’s recipes. For our adaptation of her resplendent borsch with duck and smoked pears, we opt to use prunes, a substitution she suggests. You also can replace the duck with a small rack of pork baby back ribs, if you’re so inclined. The borsch is made by simmering duck legs (or pork ribs) with aromatics to make a flavorful broth; the meat then is shredded off the bones and added to the soup at the end. As the broth simmers, aromatics for the borsch are sautéed in a separate pot so they are ready to receive the broth, which is strained directly into the aromatics. The broth requires at least 1½ hours of simmering, so that’s a good time to prep the ingredients—the aromatics, potato, cabbage—for the borsch. But wait to chop the dill garnish until later, while the finished soup stands off heat for 5 minutes, so the herbal flavor and fragrance remain fresh and strong. Serve with rye bread.
cup red wine vinegar
medium (about 6 ounces) red beet, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater (1½ cups)
Just made this in honor of Ukraine. It was really delicious. I have made borscht many times but never with duck and prunes. It was light but had lots of body and flavor and getting a spoonful with duck and/or prune was divine. The more we ate the more we loved it. I can't wait to have it again tomorrow- I imagine it will be even more flavorful! Next time I will make rye bread as well!
Has anyone at Milk Street had any contact with chef Olia Hercules since the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Is she and her family safe? Thank you.
Hi William -
I am not sure if anyone has been in contact with Olia directly, but all of our hearts are with her, her family and friends, and all the people of Ukraine. You can follow Olia on Instagram @oliahercules for the most up-to-date information.
The recipe calls for adding the beet and vinegar mixture, while the linked video shows adding the beets only and advises using the leftover vinegar for another purpose. Was this change from the original recipe intended? Thank you.
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