My Ukrainian Great Grandmother (Baba) was a wonderful cook. Tough as nails she was...and mean too. After her husband passed away, she and her children were forced to pick onions in the fields to earn enough money to survive. In fact, my Grandam Vera can't stand onions to this day. Eventually, Baba remarried and saved up enough money to buy a boarding house. She would cook for her boarders, and also for my loud and lively family on Sundays. Her borscht recipe has been passed down three generations and counting. It's definitely a paupers dish, and I'm pretty sure my ancestors considered themselves lucky to have a stew bone to throw into the pot.
I grew up eating this wonderful earthen beet soup, and considered it a "special" dish. Sometimes I can go years without making it. It's amazing how the aroma of borsch brings back memories of my Baba's home. I fondly recall her pet love birds, playing with matryoshka, and curiously inspecting crocheted dolls, without legs, perched upon styrofoam cones. Oh yes, her den was full of curiosities.
One of my fondest memories, is when one Sunday Baba and "the adults" went out to the patio to drink loose tea (shots of Cognac) and read tea leaves. I stayed inside to play with her trinkets. She had an old fashioned, unguarded fan perched upon her entertainment center. Given the fact that I was only five at the time, she obviously was concerned I might touch it. "Don touch dat fan...dooonnn touch dat fan" she heeded. Of course, the mere mention of not touching this all of a sudden insatiable contraption, put me in a trance. I found my chubby little index finger being powerlessly pulled with the force of a neodymium magnet, towards certain injury. Ouch, I screamed! Running and crying, I fled to my Baba for support...what I got was a hard slap on the face (literately), and "YOU BAD LITTLE GIRL! I told you don touch dat fan!". All of a sudden, screaming and crying wasn't working out to my advantage.
One day I'll share her pierogi recipe with you as well. I'm so very lucky to have such sentimental memories and recipes to reflect upon throughout the years...snarkity, snark, snark.
So here it is, in it's entirety. As you can see, there is room for interpretation. I threw in some fresh dill, juiced whole tomatoes and used dried Lima beans. It tasted exactly like hers.
(Click photo to expand)
I got my beets from the Leaning Shed Farm, cabbage from Green Acres Farm, fresh dill from Smits Farms and a beef stew bone from Meadow Haven. There's no place like home.