Recipe: Slow cooker vegetarian borscht (beet soup)

wpid-img_20150614_161124.jpgMany modern recipes rely on tomatoes or lemon juice to give borscht its refreshing, acidic flavor. This recipe gets its tang the old-fashioned way: by using lacto-fermented beets. Served hot, borsht makes a hearty winter meal. But it’s also great in the summer, when I prefer to eat it cold with a little plan yogurt mixed in. This soup is even better as leftovers than when served fresh.

Fermented beets are loaded with beneficial bacteria that help with digestion. To preserve these bacteria, I add the beets to the soup at the end of the cooking process, after turning off the crock pot. This also helps give the borscht its beautiful red color – simmering beets for extended periods tends to turn them brown.

You can make borscht into a complete meal by topping it with plain yogurt or sour cream, and adding some crusty sourdough bread on the side. Whether dairy or soy, yogurt is a good source of protein, but you can up the quotient even more by adding seitan (savory wheat gluten) to the onions in the first step.

This recipe makes enough to fill a 7-quart slow cooker.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds yellow or red onions (about 1 kg, or 4 medium), peeled and chopped
  • 2 pounds red or other thin-skinned potatoes (about 1 kg)
  • 1/2 pound carrots (about 1/4 kg, or 5 medium)
  • 4 cups (1 liter) fermented beets
  • 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable stock
  • 6 cups (1.5 liters) water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, ground

Instructions

  1. Peel and chop the onions. Coat the bottom of the slow cooker with oil, then put the chopped onions and caraway in. Put lid on, turn heat to low and cook for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
  2. Peel the potatoes, or don’t. Dice the potatoes and carrots. After the onions have cooked for an hour, add the carrots, potatoes, stock and water to the pot. Turn to high and cook for 3 to 4 hours, until potatoes and carrots are tender.
  3. Turn off the heat and add the beets. Stir and let sit for a few minutes to let the salt and juices from the beets meld with the other ingredients.
  4. Serve hot or cold.

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