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There is one thing I know about beets: you either LOVE THEM or you HATE them.
I’ve never met anyone who was like “beets are ok, I guess”. It’s all or nothing. I have one friend that actually spat on the ground when I mentioned beets. I don’t get it. I love the earthy flavour of a nice beet and everyone at Casa de Kolchak, dogs and humans love these healthy vegetables. What’s not to love? Beets are a source of beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, B & C. They’re legit good for your liver and they can be a great part of a cleanse or detox.
My GG (aka the coolest old lady ever) was a big fan of beets and she passed that love on to all of us kids. Borscht was a staple and just the smell of beets cooking takes me back to my childhood and to my GG’s kitchen. I can still remember her beet stained hands and the big wooden fork and spoon hanging on her kitchen wall. (The same fork and spoon that grace the Casa de Kolchak kitchen.) As we chopped and mixed and measured, she would whisper the secrets to her old family recipes to me, making me promise not to tell my Mom.
More than 20 years later, I still make the same recipe, completely from memory.
It’s become a favourite of the dogs over the years too. It’s no surprise, borscht contains some of their favourite things: beets, carrots, those little white potatoes Felix is so nuts over. Still, the original recipe isn’t exactly dog friendly, so I’ve come up with a work around that lets me have the nostalgic soup I love and lets me make a little dog friendly taste for Kolchak and Felix.
GG made it very clear that I was never to give this recipe to my Mom, but I don’t think she reads this blog and GG never said anything about not sharing the recipe with you guys. (To be fair, she didn’t understand the internet and she didn’t know what a blog was. She called you guy my friends, as in “That Jodi is always on her phone playing with her friends. She’s nuts!” She wasn’t wrong. I love you guys.) So even though I risk facing the wrath of GG, I’m going to go ahead and share it here, partly because I’ve never seen another borscht recipe like it (there’s no tomatoes and no beef in this one) and partly because I’m hoping it makes her so darn mad that she decides to haunt me. I could use a little GG style advice.
I like to make my borscht in my crock pot, but you can totally do it on the stove, over low heat. GG’s soup isn’t one that you bring to a boil. It’s a slow cook that you can not rush. Got 8 hours? This soup has the kind of slow cooked flavour that only a whole day of simmering can give. It’s good hearty peasant food: flavourful, filling and cheap, cheap, cheap to make. If you’re one of those people tackling the human hamster wheel and watching what you eat, this vegetable soup is also pretty kind on the calories.
Here’s what you need:
4 – 5 large beets
10 (or so) white nugget potatoes
1/2 head of cabbage
For the Human soup only:
1/2 medium onion (FOR HUMAN SOUP ONLY)
3 – 4 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. butter
generous splash of white vinegar
salt, pepper & fresh dill, to taste
This is How We Do It:
Set up your crock pot (or a regular stove and place an additional small pot on the stove (for the dog friendly soup).
Peel and chop your carrots into rounds.
Chop the cabbage into quarters, then thinly slice.
Dog Borscht: Place 1/2 c. chopped beets, 1/4 c. chopped carrot & 1/4 c. chopped cabbage into the “dog pot” and cover with water. Over low heat, allow soup to cook 6 – 8 hours, stirring occasionally.
Human borscht: Place remaining beets, carrots and cabbage in your crock pot or soup pot. Chop half an onion and add it to the HUMANS ONLY soup pot. (I’m not jokin’ around here pups. Onions are seriously bad for dogs and can cause an illness called hemolytic anemia which is dangerous and life threatening. Never feed your dog onions or foods containing onions.)
Finely dice the garlic and toss it into the human pot. (If you like, you can add a small amount to the dog pot as well. The jury is still out on garlic & dogs. We believe that in small amounts, garlic is safe and can even be beneficial, but we encourage every dog owner to do their own research, always consult their own vet and decide for themselves. Cool?)
Add the butter, a generous splash of white vinegar, and a healthy dose of salt and pepper. Finely chop fresh dill and sprinkle into the soup. (My family loves a borscht that bites back and so we are heavy handed with the vinegar and with the dill. Start with a moderate amount and check the flavour 4 hours or so in. You can always add more if you decide you want a bit more acid.)
Ignore the soup for 6 – 8 hours.
Serve the dog-friendly version to dogs warm over their regular kibble for a special treat.
Serve to human version with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling or fresh dill and a hearty slice of bread and butter, just the peasants used to.
It’s cold outside and we could all use a little comfort food. Do your dogs like beets?