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Keep Warm With This Recipe for Aunt Gertie’s Hot Beef Borscht

As the cold and dreary days of late January and February approach, the thought of a bowl of hearty and warming soup becomes especially appealing. When I was a kid, my Aunt Gertie, who loved to cook, would often talk about hot beef borscht with garlic — a dish that she remembered from her childhood. Although her taste memory of it was vivid, she was never able to make a version that matched the one she remembered.

What follows is my attempt at a borscht that matches the one that Aunt Gertie so fondly remembered. During colder months, we used to serve this as a staff meal at Chanterelle. Though I’m quite happy with the recipe, I always wish I could have tasted original.

beef borscht


Aunt Gertie’s Hot Beef Borscht

Serves 6-8 as a main course


  • 3 pounds beef brisket
  • 5 cups veal stock
  • 3 tablespoons chicken or duck fat
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 5 cups peeled and shredded raw beets (5-6 large beets)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 6 cups shredded cabbage, preferably savoy
  • 7 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
  • Sour cream for garnish (not optional)


  1. Place beef in a large saucepot and add the veal stock. Add water if needed to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beef is tender, about two hours. Let the beef cool in the broth. Drain the meat — reserving the broth — and cut into half-inch dice.
  2. Heat the fat in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the broth from the beef and the chicken stock, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add beets and lemon juice. Simmer, uncovered, until the beets are tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Add beef and cabbage, bring back to a simmer and cook until cabbage is soft and beef is heated through, about 10 minutes. Season with the sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper and caraway seeds (if desired). Simmer for a few more minutes to let the flavors blend, then taste and adjust seasoning as desired — the borscht should be sweet, sour and peppery. Serve topped with sour cream.

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