Ukraine's cultural victory: 10 facts about borscht that will surprise you. And three delicious recipes
Borscht is officially Ukrainian and under the protection of UNESCO. It should be celebrated! Of course, by eating borscht. We share recipes for cooking borscht from Mariupol, the Kherson, and Poltava regions and tell the most curious things about the Ukrainian national dish.
On July 1, at the 5th extraordinary meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, a landmark decision was made for Ukraine. Ukrainian borscht was included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in need of immediate protection. The war with russia over borscht ended with our victory!
What is the problem?
russia is stealing our borscht
The Ukrainian Minister of Culture, Oleksandr Tkachenko, welcomed the committee's decision: "…no matter how much masha zakharova said that "cooking books were banned, and the recipe of the dish was kept secret and it was forbidden to cook" and in general, our borscht is "a manifestation of extremism and nazism," this "manifestation of extremism" is now officially Ukrainian, and officially under the protection of UNESCO," Tkachenko said.
Chef Yevhen Klopotenko became one of the most active fighters for Ukrainian borscht. He repeatedly emphasized that russia's attempt to appropriate Ukrainian borscht as its invention is nothing more than one of the elements of the purposeful destruction of Ukrainians, which has been going on for hundreds of years.
"russia is destroying us physically and culturally. We are protecting ourselves, but we need support on all fronts. Because even now, russians are promoting the notion in the world that "good russians" love "good russian borshch" and call it russian soup everywhere. And the world believes them. But they do not understand that this is a dish of Ukrainian strength. Protecting borscht is a gesture of support for Ukraine and an additional way to protect the existence of the Ukrainian nation. At the legislative level, we become inscribed in the context of the world. The world recognizes borscht — it recognizes the existence of Ukrainian gastronomy. Officially, at the global level. It is what I am now fighting for because it cannot be erased. It is about the recognition, value, and influence of Ukraine," Klopotenko wrote on the eve of the committee's decision.
What is the solution?
The battle for Ukrainian borscht began even before the war. Ukraine submitted an application to include borscht in the list of intangible heritage of UNESCO last March. The Ministry of Culture published the "Manifesto of Ukrainian Cuisine," and the Verkhovna Rada appointed special borscht days. All this was done to popularize our national dish. But Ukrainians do not need borscht advertising. Because our borscht, which the russians wanted to appropriate, is a true cultural product, nurtured by the traditions of many generations of Ukrainians. Tasty and fragrant cooked according to hundreds of recipes from all corners of Ukraine. A dish of unity, a dish of strength, a dish of love for one's country.
The decision of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage became a truly historic event for Ukraine. It means recognizing the uniqueness and identity of the Ukrainian element of intangible cultural heritage and, meanwhile, recognizing its universal value and significance for world culture.
"Borshch is an element of social integration and cohesion that unites the people of Ukraine, regardless of age, gender, or origin. In this sense, the element demonstrates the important role of intangible cultural heritage during armed conflicts and emergency situations," the MCIP noted.
Now, as Oleksandr Tkachenko said, Ukrainians would be happy to share borscht and its recipes "with all civilized countries" and even with uncivilized ones too, "so that they have at least something light, tasty and Ukrainian."
10 interesting facts about borscht
- There are more than seven dozen prepared and described recipes for red borscht. "Kyiv borscht" is considered the most difficult and the most expensive. The broth is cooked from three types of meat — beef, lamb, and pork, and in addition to the mandatory ingredients, natural bread kvass is added.
- Tomato dressing appeared in Ukrainian borscht only at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, when American tomatoes finally took root in Ukraine. And before that, whey, sour milk, sauerkraut, berries, or unripe apples served as acidifiers for borscht.
- Borscht was also prepared on beet kvass: it was diluted with water, and the mixture was poured into a clay pot or a cast iron pot and brought to a boil. Chopped beets, cabbage, carrots, and other vegetables were placed in boiling water, and the pot was placed in the oven. Boiled borscht was salted and seasoned.
- In the Chernihiv region, borscht is prepared with mushroom "ears" and is called "Pereyaslavsky."
- In the Zhytomyr region, there are two types of borscht: "Polish," with dried mushrooms, and "Korosten," with dried fruits.
- In Galicia in ancient times, borscht was prepared very thin. They didn't add potatoes and seasoned it with fried onions and carrots. Cherry or apple juice was added to give acidity.
- The small town of Borschiv, located in the Ternopil region, was named after Ukrainian borscht. Every fall, it becomes the center of the "Borsch-yiv" festival.
- Many superstitions are associated with borscht. For example, it was believed that the soul of the deceased flies away with the steam from the borscht. Therefore, it is a traditional dish at Ukrainian wakes.
- There is a "borscht belt" in the USA. Ashkenazi Jews settled the area in the suburbs of New York. They are natives of Slavic countries who brought the borscht recipe with them. Residents called this area the Borscht Belt.
- The unofficial "borscht index" (similar to the "Big Mac index") is often used by the Ukrainian mass media to assess the purchasing power of various currencies and determine the real hryvnia inflation. The borscht index is the average cost of all products needed to prepare a certain volume of this dish, as of a certain date.
How does it work?
On February 24, when russia started bombing all of Ukraine in the morning, many Ukrainians, to stop the panic, went to the kitchen to cook borscht for their families. Borscht became the first dish that those who were forced to evacuate with their children thought about when the situation stabilized a little. Borscht became one of the main dishes prepared and cooked by volunteers for those whose homes were bombed by the enemy. Borscht went to the front and the hospital. Borscht was and is on the menu of every Ukrainian. Since the first days of the full-scale war, Ukrainians have been preparing borscht because they wanted the manifestation, symbols, signs, and taste of Ukraine.
Experts note that Ukrainian borscht is a national dish that has no competitors. At the same time, borscht is more than food. Ukrainians won not only the right to call Ukraine the homeland of delicious food but also a part of our traditions, passed down from generation to generation, our identity and culture. We will not allow anyone to steal this! Great joint Victory is formed by small victories on different fronts. And it will definitely happen!
How can we bring our Victory even closer today? Of course, by preparing delicious borscht! Rubryka has collected three borscht recipes for you, the names of which are now iconic for Ukraine.
Are you sure, we will succeed?
On the pages of social networks, Ukrainians often wage battles, proving to each other that their borscht is the "correct" and tastiest. In fact, there are hundreds of recipes, and besides, everyone cooks borscht in their own way. But all borschts are united by the main vegetable component, which determines their taste, color, and aroma. This is a beetroot. After all, the very name of the dish comes from the Old Slavic name of this vegetable — "brshch" (beetroot). We hope you have stocked up on beets! So, let's get to business!
How to cook borscht
Mariupol-style fish borscht
The American edition of The New York Times published a recipe for fish borscht, prepared in Mariupol. The ancient recipe was shared by Ukrainian Olha Kutseridi, who has been living in the USA for 15 years.
- Beans – 120 gr
- Bay leaf – 3 pcs.
- Salt – 10 g
- Beet – 1 pc.
- Carrot – 1 pc.
- Onion – 1 pc.
- Bell pepper – 1 pc.
- Potatoes – 4 pcs.
- Dill – 1 pc.
- Cabbage — 350 g
- Olive oil – 40 ml
- Sugar – 5 g
- Tomato juice – 500 ml
- Sprats in tomato sauce – 250 g
- Water – 2 l
- Put the beans in a small bowl and add 250 ml of water. They should soak from 3 hours to the whole night. Drain the water and rinse the beans. Pour 2 liters of water into a large saucepan, add soaked beans, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until beans are tender, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on soaking time and age of beans.
- While the beans are cooking, wash and clean the vegetables and herbs. Grate beets and carrots on a coarse grater. Finely chop the onion and bell pepper. Dice the potatoes into medium pieces, and chop the dill and cabbage.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add grated beets, sprinkle with sugar, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Then add the carrots and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the pan.
- Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into the pan and add the remaining onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned (5 to 10 minutes). Pour tomato juice, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
- When the beans are ready, add the potatoes and beet-carrot mixture to the pot, bring to a boil, season with salt, then reduce the heat and cook until the potatoes are tender about 15 minutes. Add bell pepper and onion-tomato mixture. Let it boil for 10 minutes, then put the cabbage in the pot with the sprats and dill and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, cover the pan and leave for 20 minutes to allow all the flavors to blend. Remove and discard bay leaf and adjust salt as desired. Enjoy fish borscht warm or at room temperature. Serve with sourdough bread and grated garlic.
The secret of this traditional Ukrainian dish is Poltava dumplings, which are prepared very quickly and taste wonderful with borscht!
- Chicken or duck (about 1 kg) — 1 pc.
- Beets – 2 pcs. (medium)
- salt, ground black pepper – to taste
- Butter – 2 tbsp. spoons
- Tomato paste – 4-5 tbsp. a spoon
- Vinegar – 1 tsp
- Onion – 1 pc. (large)
- Carrot – 1 pc.
- Potatoes — 3-4 pcs.
- Cabbage – 500 g
- Bay leaf – 3 pcs.
- Black pepper – 5-6 peas
- Garlic – 4-5 cloves
- Sour cream – 0.5 cups
- Chopped parsley – 2 tbsp. spoons
For dumplings: 2 tbsp of buckwheat flour, 1 tbsp of hot water, salt, ground black pepper, and 1 egg.
- Wash the poultry, cover with cold water and cook until ready, skimming off the foam. Remove from the broth, cool slightly, and cut into pieces.
- Cut the beets into thin strips, and add salt and pepper. Heat half of the oil in a pan, lay out the beets, pour in a little broth, and simmer until soft for 45-50 minutes, adding water or broth.
- Finally, add tomato paste and vinegar, and heat for another 15–20 minutes. Cut the onion and carrot into small strips.
- Heat the oil in a pan, and fry the vegetables until soft. Cut the potatoes, and chop the cabbage.
- Prepare dumplings: buckwheat flour (you can grind buckwheat groats in a coffee grinder), dilute with a spoonful of boiling water, add salt, and pepper, and beat an egg. Prepare the dough, the consistency of which should be similar to thick sour cream.
- Add potatoes and cabbage to the boiling broth. After 15 minutes — beets and sautéed vegetables, and after another 5 minutes — dumplings, bay leaves, and pepper.
- Peel the garlic, smash it and add it to the borscht 10 minutes before the end of cooking. Put a spoonful of sour cream to each plate and add greens.
Borscht from the Kherson region
Here is another recipe for Ukrainian borscht, which became famous around the world five years ago. The recipe of Olha Hercules, who comes from Kakhovka, the Kherson region, was printed in The New Yorker. Olha's grandmother used to cook borscht according to this recipe.
- 1 oxtail
- 2 onions
- 3 large carrots
- 2 stems of celery
- 4 peas of allspice, coarsely chopped
- 10 peas of black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 peeled beets (preferably a pale variety, but red will also work)
- 1/2 small green cabbage, cut into circles
- 400 g of chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup of red beans
- 4 medium potatoes
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 bunch of dill
- Sour cream for serving
- Fill a large pot with cold water. Cut one onion in half and add to the pot. Coarsely chop two carrots and celery and add them along with the allspice, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Add the oxtail and a good pinch of salt.
- Bring the water to a boil. Skim off the foam, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the broth for two to three hours, until the meat begins to separate from the bone.
- While the broth is cooking, peel and finely chop the second onion. Grate the remaining carrot on a coarse grater. Cut the beets into thin cubes.
- Ladle off some of the beef fat from the broth and pour it into a large pan. Make a medium fire and wait until the fat starts to boil. Add the onion and sauté gently, stirring occasionally, until softened and starts to caramelize. Then add the carrots and simmer for another five minutes. Add salt and taste — the onions and carrots should be well seasoned.
- Add the beets to the pan and simmer for a few minutes. Finally, add the tomatoes, cook for a couple of minutes, and taste. If it tastes too sour, add a pinch of sugar.
- Pour the beef broth into a large bowl. Keep the oxtail, but discard the spices and vegetables that were cooked with it. Pour the stock back into the pot with the oxtail.
- Add the contents of the pan to the pan with the chopped potatoes and cook for seven minutes over medium heat. Then add the cabbage and cook for another three minutes. The potatoes should be soft and the cabbage al dente. Finally, grate the garlic directly into the pan and stir vigorously.
- Serve the borscht with plenty of chopped dill and sour cream. The next day, the borscht will be even tastier.
Cook, taste, treat, and remember: everything will be borscht, and everything will be Ukraine! 🥘