Jerri has been making borscht since we were married. It is always delicious though frequently slightly different, as she has never written down what she does. Basically, she just tries to make it the way she remembers her mom made it.
She checked her Mennonite cookbooks for borscht recipes, but they really did not help much. This is one of those recipes where you can vary the amounts of ingredients with some impunity. If you want more beets or potatoes, add ‘em; if you want more meat, use two ham hocks. but remember that ham hocks are salty.
1 cup dried pinto or navy beans
1 smoked ham hock
2 or 3 medium potatoes
4 or 5 medium beets (2 to 3 inches in diameter)
1 cup tomatoes
2 – 3 T diced onion
1 or 2 carrots
1 celery rib with leaves
1 cup chopped beet greens and stalks
Salt to taste
Soak the beans overnight. Drain and put them in a soup pot with a smoked ham hock and the diced onion. Cover with 6 to 8 cups water and simmer until beans and hock are tender, about 2 hours.
While the beans and hock are cooking, cut the stems about an inch above the root and wash the beets being careful not to damage the skins. Steam the beets for 30 to 45 minutes and remove the skin by rubbing it off under cool water. Remove the stems and roots and dice the beets into 1/2 inch cubes.
Wash and chop the beet stems and leaves. Cut the stems into 1/2 inch pieces. Chop some of the leaves into small pieces and reserve them for adding later to the soup. Dice the tomato and peel and dice the potato. If you wish to add a celery stalk and carrots, wash and chop them also.
Take the ham hock from the pot, remove the meat, cut it into bite sized pieces and return the meat to the pot. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons vinegar and all the chopped vegetables except the beets and beet leaves. Add water to cover the vegetables and simmer until they are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the beets and simmer another 10 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, add the chopped beet leaves.
Taste for salt and adjust the seasoning.
Serve with vinegar and sour cream to add to the bowls of soup at the table.
NOTES: Many borscht recipes omit the carrots and celery, so feel free to omit either or both. If you have some green beans in the garden, you can chop some and add a cupful.