Supremely sweet and sour soup

17 Feb

There’s nothing like a bowl of steaming cabbage borscht (it’s even better than chicken soup!) when you have a head cold or sinus infection. I’m grateful to Crossroads Deli for always having that favorite on their menu. Years ago I tried making it myself but I was disappointed with the results – and decided it was not worth the effort. But paging through The Gan Goes Gourmet (2011), a cookbook from my synagogue’s* preschool I came across Grandma Ethel’s Cabbage Borscht, submitted by the Grais family. I personally knew and loved Etheldoris Grais – as did anyone who came across the diminutive woman with a big name. She was well known throughout the Twin Cities for her cooking prowess. She passed away eight years ago but I immediately knew if Etheldoris supplied this recipe, it was going to be worth trying. And I wasn’t disappointed!

Cook’s notes: I used plain old water and added a tablespoon of Better than Beef Bouillon Roasted Beef Base for a richer flavor. I also cut the meat off the ribs and trimmed the fat before allowing the mixture to sit. I initially thought the broth was way too sweet but after refrigerating it overnight (which is a “must do” – do not eat this the same day you prepare it) I decided it was just right. Start with less sugar and taste as you go. Citric acid crystals are available in the bulk section of Whole Foods and many natural food stores. It’s an essential ingredient to give the borscht that desired sweet/sour taste. You can always add more. Yes, you can substitute lemon juice – but it won’t be as good!

Grandma Ethel’s Cabbage Borscht

2 pounds short ribs

1 onion, pierced

2 celery stems & leaves

4-6 parsley stems

1 clove garlic

1 bay leaf

3 peppercorns

3 quarts water or stock (beef, chicken or vegetable)

2 ½ pounds canned whole tomatoes

6 ounces tomato paste

1 can shoestring cut beets (I could only find sliced beets and simply cut them into shoestrings)

½ teaspoon citric acid crystals to taste

1½ cups sugar

5 cups cabbage, thickly chopped

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Add short ribs, onion, celery, parsley, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns to water/stock and bring to a boil. Skim and turn short ribs to simmer until meat is done. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, beets, citric acid crystals (to taste), sugar and cabbage. Cook until cabbage is done (15-20 minutes). Do not overcook. Let sit for 2 hours. Refrigerate to cool. Skim off fat. Reheat and serve. Best if it sits overnight. If too strong, add water, salt and pepper to taste.

*The Gan Shelanu Preschool was the first Jewish nursery school in Minneapolis. I am proud to say that all four of my children are graduates!

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