I. Need. Borscht.

As we know, there is an ebb and flow in all things. Like the moon. Or my interest in knitting. 

Cooking is certainly no exception to this rule - One miraculous day in the kitchen that left you feeling heady and dangerously creative turns into that legendary evening when someone actually lost a filling during the desert course of the dinner party because your caramel was too hard. Except they didn't tell you till a year later so as to delay your guilt.  
Yes, that actually happened… To a friend of mine I mean. Ahem.

A blog is no exception either - having its own set of ebbs and flows - periods of heightened imagination followed by awkward phases of transition and confused identity. I hate to say it, but we’ve been in a phase of the latter. 
You were thinking it too… Don’t lie.

Because you see a blog is certainly its own creative beast - it is has an identity, a character, an essence. With all these - ebbs and flows. Being the creator of the beast any phase of mine is, strangely enough, a phase of hers. An odd vulnerability. 
(Yes, I’ve found the blog is decidedly feminine).

Today my beast and I feel a need to re-identify ourselves. 
Re-cap, re-view
Re-orient to what its is we’re all following. So in an effort to do just that - here's my summary of the identity, the aim, the essence of this here beast of a blog. 

- This is a blog following the writing of a cookbook. A Mennonite cookbook to be exact. We started it with this.  Let’s not lose sight.
- That’s to say… this is a finite blog. Not one of those sorted soap operas, endlessly dragging out the drama of fava beans and pork belly.  When the book is done, the blog shall be done. Period. (Here's to hoping this won’t end in some Shakespearean tragedy where all inspiration lays bloodied by its own author, missing all its fillings.)
- Of course, there’s recipes along the way – the ones being tested for the book and then just the ones I really like, cause you get to do that when you're a blog/beast creator.
- Like any (potentially good) story this one has its characters: the women I glean wisdom from, a teacherartists, the state of Kansas, friends, family, you dear readers, and there’s me. 
(Psstt… Stay tuned! A new and exciting character shall emerge quite soon!)
- The book’s aim is to be one of collaboration – with Mennonite artists – the visual kind, the savory and sweet kind, the pen and paper kind. 
- YOU, dear readers, are the intended audience and hopefully collaborators – so do speak up!… What do you want to know, learn, taste, smell? What do you want in your cookbook?

Now that we know where we all stand, I think it’s time to move forward out of this godforsaken ebb. 

However, let’s not deny the basic facts:
Today is an ebb.
Today is cold. And melancholy.
I am now 30.
And I. Need. Borscht.

Cabbage Borscht (w/o beets)
Adapted from my grandmother Joan Dreier from her days at Heritage Inn in Hesston, Kansas. 
I added the bone, bouquet garni, leek, and carrot. 

Yield: 4-6 servings

1 pound stew meat*
1 beef bone (optional)
1 bouquet garni**
1 carrot, cut in large chunks
1 small onion, diced
1 leek, white and pale green part only
4 small potatoes
1 small head of cabbage (preferably Savoy cabbage)
1/2 teaspoon dill

* Most butchers will have "stew meat" - beef cut in 1-2" cubes
** A bouquet garni is made with 4-5 sprigs of fresh parsley, 4 sprigs of thyme, and 1 bay leaf wrapped a stalk of celery.

1. In large pot cover stew meat with 1-2" of water. Add bone if you are using it. Add the bouquet garni and carrot, and bring to a boil. As soon as it is begins to boil, turn heat down to simmer, skimming the foam that rises to the surface. Simmer till the meat is nearly tender. This may take up to 2 hours - The longer it cooks, the more tender it will be. Once meat is done, remove and discard the bone. 
Note: I wanted a fairly clear broth so I poured the soup through a cheesecloth before adding veggies, which removed the impurities that came from the bone. 

2. Meanwhile, prepare the leek by cutting it in half lengthwise, rinsing, and slicing thinly. Heat a bit of olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the diced onion and leek. Turn heat to low, salt the veggies, and cover. Let cook till completely tender, then add them  to the soup. 

3. When meat is cooked to your desired tenderness, add the dill and diced potatoes. Simmer till potatoes are cooked through. 

4. Prepare the cabbage by quartering it, and cutting it into bite-sized pieces. Add the cabbage to the soup, and simmer till the cabbage is tender but still slightly crisp. 
Note: That sulfur smell from cabbage comes from cooking it on high heat. So simmer, simmer, simmer. 

5. And you're done!  Serve with a slice of hearty bread and for the love... chill out about the 30 thing. Also, leftovers are lovely. Enjoy!


  1. Hey, Katie. Your recipe omits the little bit of vinegar thrown in at the end, which gives it a little extra zing. In my family we call this version "Krut Borscht" (weed soup). I like to make it with smoky sausage and maybe chicken wings for a silkier stock.

    My family is "Russian" Mennonite and I grew up in Oregon eating Borscht, Veranika and Tweiback. I am also a book indexer specializing in cookbooks, and when the time comes, I would LOVE to write the index for this cookbook! My website is: www.bellindex.com. Please contact me if you're interested.

  2. Hi Lori, Thanks for your comment! I like this vinegar idea... I've honestly never heard of that addition. I thought I was just omitting the sour cream, mostly because I forgot it on my shopping list. :) I'll definitely give the vinegar a try. Krut Borscht... I love that!

    Oh my, a good book index is an absolute gem in a cookbook. I was just reading one the other day and was wholly annoyed with the index format... I couldn't find a thing I wanted. That's to say, I so appreciate your craft and will most definitely keep your name and website in full view. Thanks for letting me know! I think it will be awhile till we're there but when we are... I'll give you a call. What kind of notice is ideal?
    Thanks again!

  3. My husbands family was German Mennonite from Reedley California. His grandma made krut borscht (weed soup) but hers hada ham base and mixed greens-beet tops, spinach, Swiss chard and had summer savory. It was finished with some cream. I lost her recipe and if this sounds familiar to anyone I'd live to have a recipe.

  4. Hi Anne! Thanks for your comment... I'll put my feelers out and check my repertoire of Mennonite cookbooks. I've definitely heard of weed soup before so I'm sure it's just a reference away. I'm in the midst of moving so the books are tucked away at the moment but I'll let you know as soon as I find something.
    Happy Weekend!