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Winter Borscht

4 lbs beets, large
6 c water
4 tbsps red wine vinegar (4-6)
3 tbsps salad oil
2 onions, large chopped
3 carrots, large finely chopped
1 yellow or red bell pepper, seeded, finely chop
3 Roma tomato, cored, chopped
3 qts beef broth (3.5 if using meat)
4 lbs beef shanks (optional)
4 russet potatoes, large cubed to 1/2"
1 head of cabbage, small cored, finely chop
1/3 c fresh basil (or 2 tbsps dry) chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
salt to taste
2 tbsps sugar (2-3)
2 tbsps parsley chopped
1 c sour cream (optional)
1/3 c fresh dill (or 2 tbsps dry) (optional) chopped
lemon wedges (optional)
dried red chili peppers (optional)

2 stalks celery quartered
4 sprigs fresh dill (or 1/2 tsp dry)
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
8 black peppercorns
8 whole allspice
1 dried red chili pepper

Tie together celery, dill, parsley, bay, pappercorns, allspice and
chili pepper in cheesecloth for bouquet garni.

Trim tops off beets, scrub and rinse well. Cook covered in water
plus 1/4 c vinegar until tender, about 45'. Remove from liquid
(save), cool, remove skin, stems and roots, and slice into small
(1/4") sticks. In large (12 qt.) pot saute onion in oil over
med-high heat w/stirring until limp (~5'). Add carrots and bell
pepper and saute about 10' until lightly browned. Add tomatoes and
cook about 2' until soft. Add broth, bouquet garni and meat.
Bring to boil and cook covered until meat is tender (~2 hours).
Remove meat, cool, remove fat and bones and break into bite-sized

Add potatoes; cover and cook until tender. Add cabbage; cover and
cook until limp (~10'). Discard seasoning packet. Add beets and
cooking liquid, meat and basil. Bring to boil, add garlic, salt,
sugar and 1-2 tbsps. vinegar. If made ahead, cool, cover and chill.
Reheat to serve. Sprinkle w/parsley in individual bowls. Serve
w/sour cream, dill, lemon, and chilis.


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