Recipe 5: Cabbage Borscht (yeah, that’s right)

A recipe doesn’t have to be Spanish to benefit from the inclusion of sidra. Here’s one to get you thinking outside of that box. I am putting it out there first among my multi-cultural sidra dishes because even though it is foreign, Eastern European, in fact, I don’t just splash a bit of the sidra in, or use it as a marinade; it is the primary component by volume beyond any Spanish recipe I know.

Mein bubbeh brought her recipe for cabbage borscht from a region of Poland called Galicia, which, like Galicia in Spain, owes its name to the widely ranging Gauls. Any common thread ends there, until now. She would shame me for using bacon and tell me how the cossacks stormed into her house, slaughtered a pig on her kitchen floor, and defiled her oven by making her mother roast a pig in it. The kosher meat used to flavor borscht is typically a short rib of beef.

The great thing about using natural sidra is that the wild yeast fermentation easily replaces the umami of the meat for a vegan version, and the vinegar component eliminates the need to add vinegar to this sweet/sour soup. The sugars from the cabbage, onion and tomatoes completely balance the sourness and you won’t believe that you are basically eating Spanish sidra with every spoonful. But those apples are deep down in the flavor cavorting with the tomatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 thick slice of cured bacon, minced
  • 1 very small, or 1/2 medium-large green cabbage, outermost leaves removed.
  • one medium sweet onion
  • 16 fl. oz. of natural sidra
  • 2 tbsp. of tomato paste
  • 8 oz. of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • sour cream or plain yogurt

Preparation:

Quarter the cabbage, remove core and then slice it up. Halve the onion and slice it up. Put the bacon in a heavy 3 quart sauce pan, set burner to medium heat and let the bacon crisp slowly releasing its fat. When bacon edges are crisp, but morsels still have a hammy texture remove and reserve it leaving all of the fat in the saucepan to sautée the cabbage and onions.

Add the sliced cabbage and sautée, stirring frequently and coating all slices with fat. Add salt. Add onion slices when cabbage shreds have become slack and pliable. Keep stirring frequently to allow even cooking without burning.

Add sidra when cabbage has softened to al dente. Mix in tomato paste, add diced tomatoes and all their liquid and add water, if needed, to fully immerse the cabbage. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover. Simmer until cabbage is soft with just a bit of resistance to the bite. Remove from heat and serve in shallow soup plates with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt.

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