I learned to make the most killer Ukrainian borscht by listening to this song by one of my favorite musicians, Peter Ostroushko.
The lyrics are reproduced without official record company permission, but with the permission of Peter's publicist Susan Martinez and with Peter's own blessing, which is good enough for me. From the Rounder Records album "Down the Streets of My Old Neighborhood", Rounder 0227. It might be hard to find now, but Peter hopes to have it re-released on CD within a year or so ...
B-O-R-S-C-H-T(Follow this song, and you'll make a superb pot of borscht. If you're using fresh dill instead of dried, double the amount, or to taste. Variations: I grated the beets (since that's the way I had borscht for the first time during my trip to St. Petersburg), and I ate picked garlic instead of raw. Yes, I know, I wimped out ... -- Chuck)
Is the sweetest thing this side of heaven Mama made for me.
I've eaten it all my life, or at least since I was three,
And now that I'm an adult I can make it just for me,
And if you've got a minute I will share my recipe
[Mandolin interlude ...]
First you take four quarts of water, put it in a pot,
You start a blaze beneath, add some salt but not a lot,
Add some pepper and some parsley, and a bayleaf don't you know,
When the water starts to boil now you know you're on the go,
Then get a chicken (tho' my mama says that turkey tastes the best),
You chop it into pieces, take the giblets and the neck,
You add it to the water and you turn the heat down low,
And let that chicken simmer for a half an hour or so.
When your chicken meat is cooked, take it out with extra care,
You put it in a bowl inside your cold re-Frigidaire.
When your meat is slowly cooling take a break and have a smoke,
While the soup pot slowly simmers you can watch your favorite soap.
Now it's time to get an onion, and four garlic cloves,
You chop them finely then into the frying pan they go.
Saute them in some butter til they're brown and kinda clear,
You add them to the soup and now tomato time is here!
Now if you grow your own tomatoes, one quart is all you need,
If you use the store-bought kind, get two cans of Del Monte's.
Add the 'maters to the soup and let it simmer if you will,
Then add about a tablespoon of dried or fresh-cut dill.
Now get a half a dozen carrots, potatoes five or six,
Three or four red beets and chop them into bite-size bits,
Add the veggies to the soup and let it simmer there and thicken,
Go back to the re-Frigidaire and get that cooled-off chicken.
Take the meat off of the bones, take away the skin and fat,
Put the meat into the soup, give the rest to your old cat.
Now the soup is nearly finished and your race is almost run,
But don't forget the cabbage, that's the last thing that is done.
One small head of cabbage that you shred up fairly fine,
And once you put it in the soup it doesn't take much time.
You can start to set your table and call your dinner guests,
But don't forget the condiments that'll put them to the test!
First you get some rye bread that's full of caraway seeds,
You slice it nice and thick; use lots of butter, if you please!
Then next comes thick white sour cream that'll make you groan with pleasure,
You plop it in the soup and now you're really under pressure
'Cause the final step is garlic cloves that are thick and fat,
You peel them 'till they're naked and you eat them just like that!
You dip them in a bowl of salt and eat those puppies raw,
And now you're ready for the finest meal you ever saw ...
And Nirvana is at hand,
It's the best soup in the land,
And I'll spell it for you one more time so you will understand ...
Is the sweetest thing this side of heaven Mama made for me,
For breakfast, lunch or dinner, any day of any week,
It makes you healthy, wealthy, wise; unless I sound too meek,
It's made me what I am and I'll continually speak
Bee ohh arr ess SEEEEE AIIIITCH TEEEEEEEEEE!
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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)