Well, first of all I confess I did not use her Royal Majesty the Ruby Kraut in this recipe, I simply used a white kraut, although I am certain Ruby would have added lovely hues to this borscht.
BORSCHT! Don't you love the way it sounds when you say it? That word has oomph and attitude. Traditionally, borscht is made with a kind of fermented beet juice or kvass, typical in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe. I've been wanting to make beet kvass for a while but it takes a week before it's ready and I had a craving for borscht yesterday that required immediate action, so I made it with a bit of sauerkraut added in instead, which gave it a beautiful tangy flavour. In case you're wondering, you can easily make the beet kvass by peeling and slicing beets, covering them lukewarm water, dropping a slice of rye bread on top, and leaving the whole thing in a quiet place for a week.
And by the way, if you're really into borscht and want to read about it further or consider other recipes, The Guardian did a great feature on it that is well worth the read.
Here's my version, it's pretty simple and pared down but packed with flavour. You can add potatoes or carrots if you like, there are so many versions of this recipe but for me borscht is all about celebrating beets and cabbage so I just stick to those two. And of course, sour cream and fresh dill are a MUST.
1 medium-large onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
Half of a medium-small cabbage, shredded
5 or 6 medium-sized beets, peeled and finely cubed except for one which should be grated
Between 1/2 to 1 cup chopped sauerkraut, depending on how zesty you want your borscht
2 litres of good (preferably homemade) beef or vegetable broth
2 medium cubed potatoes (optional)
4 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
* Many people put a tablespoon of sugar in their borscht. I don't, but you may wish to try it
Sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot, until golden. Add the shredded cabbage and chopped garlic and give a good stir, cooking for a minute or two more. Add all the remaining ingredients: beets, sauerkraut, potatoes if using, broth. You may need to add some water or broth depending on how thick you like your soup. Simmer on medium heat for about 30 minutes or until beets and cabbage are soft and soup is flavourful. Season with salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind it will already be a bit salty from the sauerkraut so taste it before seasoning. Serve with a generous dollop of sour cream and fresh chopped dill. As with most soups, this one tastes even better the next day when the flavours have really matured, so be sure to make a large pot so you have leftovers.