There’s nothing like borscht. It’s simple to prepare, and comforting. And beet season lasts from winter to early spring! And while it’s been a long winter and what seems like an even longer wait for spring as my blog hiatus indicates, some delicious beet-y dishes were served the last three months.

This borscht fest began as a conversation with my friends Otilia and Tudor. I wanted to observe their preparation of my family favorite, which was always just a sweet and savory mix of beets and the kitchen sink.

So one snowy day in the Pacific Northwest I watched the windows steam up as Tudor prepared our borscht,  and Otilia gave me the secrets of borscht in Romania.

In a beet shell Romanian borscht is vegetarian, and “borscht” refers to a starter not unlike the sponge we use in sourdough bread. This imparts a sweet and sour taste.

Is this a soup served at holiday time?

“Yes and no. Borscht is not really a traditional Romanian holiday soup, because it’s a dish that Romanians eat everyday, before the main course. It’s the Romanian equivalent for the French salad, if you will. It’s not festive, and yet, it is indispensable. Also, for Romanians, “Borscht” refers to all kinds of soups, it is not specific to the ones based on beetroots.” Otilia explained that soups become Borscht after adding the secret ingredient: the fermented starter.

What, no recipe?

“The traditional ingredients are: beetroots, onions, carrots, a few potatoes, oil, and “Borscht” (which is a kind of sour soup made from fermented wheat bran that Romanians add to any type of soup, to turn it into “Borscht”). In case you don’t have the “borscht”, you can add some lemon juice at the end, to give it the same sour taste. Beetroot borscht is traditionally eaten with a dollop of sour cream”.

So, the defining magic is in the “borscht”?

“In Romania, borscht designates the base ingredient of any sour soup, called “borscht” or “ciorba”. It’s in fact a sour liquid, made of wheat bran and sour cherry leaves. The sour liquid is added at the end of cooking.”

Otilia then told me you need a start from another “borscht”, to produce your own! She also said that only the grandmothers really know how to make this!

Is Tudor always the soup chef?

“It varies between me and Tudor. If you’re interested, we can do it again for another borscht recipe”.

It was absolutely sweet and delicious!! Write me down for another borscht day in your kitchen,  and thank you both!!