Once upon a time, a long time ago, the Campbell Soup folks decided to dive into the alluring waters of Russia’s burgeoning consumer goods industry. In the expansive fashion of the world’s behemoths, Campbell sent a team of intrepid field agents into the Wild East to learn how they could persuade one of the world’s legendary soup-eating countries to abandon their millennial tradition of homemade soup. and convert to Campbell’s. cheerful line of iconic red and white boxes.
Enthusiasm for the project was high in some quarters. The Campbell contingent was lavishly celebrated by just about everyone who had any interest in seeing the heaps, heaps, heaps of Campbell’s soup factories springing up from Kaliningrad to Khabarovsk. The marketing community salivated as if it had just been served a bowl of steaming borscht on a cold, wintery January day.
You can say this for Campbell – they got it right, commissioning a plethora of surveys and studies on the Russian market. From these, they developed complicated market research campaigns with clever ideas for free samples and all kinds of incentives to get Russians to eat canned soup.
He completely failed. Well, of course he did.
In less than four years, as this article reports, the folks at Campbell packed their marketing surveys and returned home, admitting they were unable to curb the Russians’ passion for homemade soup. Did this surprise anyone? Certainly not. I mean – what were they even thinking?
The Russians may have embraced sushi, organic juices, fast food, multicookers, and even chia seeds, but processed soup is simply a bridge too far. No Russian can live without soup in the middle of the day, whatever the weather, and no Russian worthy of her (or her) chops would be caught dead using a can opener to make this soup. . The good people of Knorr had a better strategy: to sell the Russians the means to flavor their broth, but not to attempt any further forays into the holy of holies, a pot of homemade soup.
In my exploration of magnificent Russian cuisine, I have certainly been converted to the sanctity of homemade soup. There is no fanatic like a convert, and today the idea of canned soup strikes me as very fallacious and slightly suspect. But I use a few canning and storage tips to make a really good Russian soup.
Every summer, I marinate bushels of beets and their stems in mason jars with a spicy, tangy brine, and these form the basis of an entire winter of spectacular borshch. Pickled beets not only provide the deep purple color that is the calling card of Eastern European beloved beet soup, but they also inject rasol into the mix, giving borshch its bittersweet taste. essential. With a jar of pickled beets, a few lamb shanks or beef short ribs and a few carrots and parsnips, you’re off to a fabulous jar of homemade borshch.
Borsch is far from the only dish topped with a jar of pickled beets and their stems. Use them in place of regular beets in the iconic Russian holiday salad, herring under a fur coat. Serve them on a salad of roasted beets and goat cheese, toss them with rice and salmon in a poke bowl, top with a midday snack of cottage cheese or spread them on a burger as you wish. wish. I also like to serve a small ramekin of pickled beets with a board of cheese and cold cuts.
I find spending a day making pickles and preserves incredibly soothing and satisfying – I love the sense of accomplishment I get from a row of glistening glass jars filled with preserves. But if you’re not into the full-blown canning ritual – and many aren’t – you can resize the recipe below and keep the pickles in the fridge for several weeks. Roasting the beets ahead of time makes them deliciously velvety and sweet, and a few traditional spices and several non-traditional spices give these pickles a robust flavor that is anything but ordinary.
Instant soup will never take root in Russia. But with a jar of these pickled beets, delicious homemade borscht can be yours in an instant.
Spicy marinated beets and their stems
- 4-5 bunches of beets and their stems (keep the leaves for another use)
- 2 quarts (2 liters) white vinegar
- ½ cup (125 ml) sugar
- cup (60 mL) pickling salt
- 6 to 9 star anise pods
- 6-9 cinnamon sticks
- 3-6 bay leaves
- cup (60 ml) mustard seeds
- ¼ cup (60 mL) coriander seeds
- 1 head of garlic, minced cloves
- 2 teaspoons of hot pepper powder
Yield: 3-4 32 oz (1 liter) jars **
- Preheat the oven to 450 ºF (220 ºC).
- Cut the beets off their stems and wrap them in an aluminum bag.
- Roast the beets for 40 minutes or until the tip of a knife slides easily into the beet.
- While the beets are roasting, prepare the brine. Combine the vinegar, sugar, hot peppers and salt and bring to a boil. Stir until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
- Toast the mustard seeds, coriander seeds and juniper berries in a small skillet over medium heat until their smells intensify. Let cool to room temperature, then crush roughly with a mallet or pestle.
- Prepare the jars by sterilizing the lids and jars in the dishwasher or by submerging them in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes.
- When the beets are roasted and cooled to room temperature, peel them and cut them into small cubes.
- Wash the beet stalks thoroughly to dislodge any grain, then cut them approximately the same size as the beet cubes.
- Mix the two with the toasted spices.
- Add a few star anise, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and garlic to each jar. Next, fill the jars with the beets and their stems, squeezing them tight and leaving a ½ inch free space.
- Pour the brine over the beets. Use a flat knife to remove air bubbles from the jars.
- Wipe the lips of the jars with a clean, damp towel, then secure the lids and process the jars in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes.
- Place the jars on a towel to cool completely. Store in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate after opening.
** This recipe assumes that you will have enough beets and brine for approximately three to four 32-ounce mason jars. I say approximately because it will depend entirely on the size of the beets in your boot. Most diets contain 4 to 5 beets. If your beets are large, prepare four to five 32-ounce (1 liter) jars or ten 16-ounce (500 mL) or quart jars to be sure.