*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Borcsht, I provide you with a brief summary about the recipe, other food ideas, tips and a recipe in that order!
Have you been searching for a novel about Ukraine? Given the devastating current events in Ukraine, you might be wishing to read more about the country and its people. If so, The Memory Keeper of Kyiv is the perfect choice.
This recipe for Borscht was kindly provided by Erin Litteken and is her great-grandmother’s recipe for the Ukrainian dish! You’ll love this soup chock full of potatoes, beets, and beef!
Erin Litteken’s debut novel, The Memory Keeper of Kyiv, is a dual-timeline story. It follows a young woman and her family as they deal with Stalin’s invasion and the resulting famine in the 1930s, and her granddaughter as she comes to term with her own losses and seeks to reconnect with her family heritage in the early 2000s.
I strongly encourage you to read this book about Ukraine. As you know, history repeats itself and the parallels of the historical events in the novel to current events is harrowing.
Beyond that, a portion of each book sale goes to benefit Ukraine! If you’d like to know more about the book, check out my full blog post with lots of extra content HERE.
Erin Litteken was kind enough to provide an authentic Ukrainian recipe to feature here on Book Club Bites. Her Ukrainian Borscht is the perfect dish to pair with your reading of The Memory Keeper of Kyiv!
If you’d like to know more about Erin Litteken, the novel, and Ukraine check out the fabulous Best of Women’s Fiction podcast where Erin Litteken discusses The Memory Keeper of Kyiv and more: HERE.
For Ukrainian Food Ideas:
Even though half of the novel is set during a famine, the characters in The Memory Keeper of Kyiv often reminisce about their favorite Ukranian foods. I loved learning more about the cuisine of Ukraine.
Here are a few of the food ideas from the pages of The Memory Keeper of Kyiv if you’d like to create a full Ukrainian menu:
- At the engagement party – meat, potato, and sour cherry varenyky, holubtsi, potatoes, slabs of ham, loaves of bread, cheese, fruit, and, of course, the intricately decorated wedding bread: korovai.
- Bobby makes Blintzes (crepes) with strawberries (or cherries) for breakfast
- Cassie and Bobby make borscht together
- Borscht and varenyky (of different varieties) are mentioned often
Luckily, if you aren’t sure about creating your own Ukranian dish, Erin Litteken has provided us with the recipe for her great-grandmother’s borscht.
Borscht (sometimes spelled borsch) is considered one of the national dishes of Ukraine.
It is a sour soup, although I didn’t find it all too sour. The beets in the soup turn the soup a bright red and create its unique flavor.
Although not pictured, it is almost always served with a large spoonful of sour cream on top and some people mix it in to the soup before serving.
Serve it with a loaf of fresh, crusty bread for dipping and a sprinkle of fresh dill to compliment the sour notes.
The recipe makes a large batch of soup, big enough for company! I encourage you to make it for your family and discuss what is happening in Ukraine today and the historical events that shaped the country.
A few tips on cooking Ukranian Borscht:
Here are a few tips to help make your cooking experience the best it can be!
1) As noted, you can make the broth ahead of time. If you do, I recommend skimming the broth of fat so that your soup isn’t too greasy.
2) Use pre-shredded cabbage to cut down on the chopping time
3) Shredded beets do take some effort. Be sure to remove the skin of the beet before shredding. And wear clothes you don’t mind getting a little beet juice on.
- 3 medium beets shredded
- 3 cups cabbage shredded
- 4 medium potatoes cut into 1-1.5 inch chunks
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp vinegar
- 2-3 garlic cloves minced or more if you like garlic
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
For the broth (see note):
- 10 cups water
- 2 lbs beef shank or chuck roast fat trimmed off
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 medium onion peeled and cut in half
- sour cream
For the broth:
- Place the meat, water, onion, and bay leaves in a large pot and bring to boil. Turn the heat down to very low and simmer for about 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Take the meat out, let cool and cut into pieces or shred.
- Filter the broth through cheesecloth and set aside. The broth can be made in advance and refrigerated overnight.
To finish the soup:
- Start bringing the broth back to boil over medium heat.
- Add the beets and onions to the boiling broth and cook for roughly 20-25 minutes minutes.
- Now, add back the meat, alongside the shredded cabbage, potatoes, and garlic, and wait until borscht comes back to boil. Cook until beets dissolve and cabbage/potatoes are cooked.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Add tomato paste and vinegar just before the borsch is done
- Serve with a generous dollop of sour cream and garnish with dill (In my family, dill is optional, sour cream is not!-Erin)
More Fun from Erin Litteken:
Please insert a short description of your recipe and why it relates to your novel. Include any information you think readers would enjoy!
Borsch is a staple in Ukraine, and every family has their own spin on it. We’ve made this recipe in my family for years, but we’ve never measured really, so I did my best to do so in this version. To this day, the smell of it cooking takes me right back to my great-grandmother’s kitchen. I paid homage to those memories by including a scene where my characters make borsch in my novel, THE MEMORY KEEPER OF KYIV.
Would like to credit someone besides yourself for the recipe?
Good food and a good book go hand-in-hand. What is your favorite food to enjoy while reading?
Did you sample any interesting food while researching this book? Or experience anything exciting while researching?
I enlisted my family to help me recreate some of the family recipes we hadn’t made in a while. It was really special to get everyone together, prepare the food my great-grandmother used to make for us, and teach my children those traditions.
Find Erin Litteken:
Erin can be found at these places online!
Don’t forget to check out the fabulous Best of Women’s Fiction podcast where Erin Litteken discusses The Memory Keeper of Kyiv and more: HERE.
Have you read The Memory Keeper of Kyiv? Have you tried Borscht? What did you think of this recipe?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. In the event of a sale, I will be awarded a small commission (at no extra cost to you or the featured book’s author). All opinions are 100% mine and every book, unless otherwise noted, is handpicked by me to be featured on the site.