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Zumma borscht ladles out rich mix of tastes

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Summer Borscht from Mennonite Girls Can Cook.

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Summer Borscht from Mennonite Girls Can Cook. (PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Photo Store

DONNA RIGUIDEL wrote in asking for a recipe for summa borscht (also called zumma borscht or green borscht). This is a summer soup, meant to celebrate all the green and tender things in the early summer garden -- new potatoes, spring onions and dill. Until summer comes, most of these ingredients can be found in the supermarket, but the soup also contains sorrel, which is hard to come by unless you have a garden (or at least a good farmer's market). For a winter version, you can substitute beet leaves or spinach (some cooks suggest you add just a spoonful of vinegar to replicate the slightly sour taste of sorrel).

Thanks to Heidi Redekop, Sylvia Gabriel, Kathy Clark from Oak Bluff, Sylvia Kehler, Kara Carson, Velma Braun and Carman's Trudy Toews, who offered trusted family recipes as well as recipes from popular cookbooks (Canadian Mennonite Cookbook, originally put out by the Altona Women's Institute in 1967, and Mennonite Girls Can Cook, a recent recipe collection that started out as a blog).

As with so many traditional recipes, it's interesting to look at multiple versions of this soup and see the differences and the similarities. The main ingredients are some kind of smoky, salty pork (a ham hock or ham bone, chopped ham or farmers' sausage), along with fresh greens and potatoes, finished with some kind of dairy (buttermilk, sour cream or heavy cream). Some cooks use barley or rice to give it some body, and some serve it over chopped hardboiled eggs. The recipes below will start you off: Sylvia Kehler, who calls herself a "by gosh by golly/boy this tastes good sort of cook," suggests you sample and season as you go along.

One correction from last week: The wacky spice cake requires 15 ml (1 tbsp) vinegar, not 5 ml (1 tsp). My apologies. As for requests, we have a good one this week. Tricia Hyatt still remembers the Kings Food Host on Pembina Highway in the 1970s and its grilled cheese sandwich, which had a crumb coating. Fancy grilled cheese sandwiches are making the current trend lists, so I'd love to check this out. And I still have high hopes for recipes for Florentines or for an old-fashioned British walnut slice. If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request, or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to, fax it to 697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.


Summer (green) borscht

(adapted from Canadian Mennonite Cookbook)

2 L (8-9 cups) boiling water

200-300 g (7 to 10 oz) smoked pork or smoked pork sausage (like farmers sausage), cubed

15 ml (1 tbsp) salt

1 L (about 4 cups) potatoes, peeled and cubed (or, if using small red potatoes, cut into halves or quarters without peeling)

500 ml (2 cups) sorrel, slivered (or beet tops, slivered)

250 ml (1 cup) green onion tops, chopped

50 ml (about 3 1/2 tbsp) fresh dill, chopped

15 ml (1 tbsp) fresh parsley, chopped

1 bay leaf

125 ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream


In a large pot or stockpot, bring water to boil and add smoked pork or sausage. Remove from heat and let cool 30 minutes. Add salt and potatoes, bring to a boil and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add sorrel or beet greens, green onions, dill, parsley and bay leaf, and cook for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Just before serving, remove from heat and add cream.


Tester's notes: I love the delicate pale green colour of the broth and the rich mix of tastes tempered by the cream. I used tiny red potatoes, which had a nice texture and didn't need peeling. This soup is probably best served immediately. If you do reheat, use low heat to avoid curdling.


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Summer borscht

(adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook, shown below)

1 smoked ham bone or ham hock

2 L (about 8-9 cups) water

500-750 ml (2-3 cups) sorrel leaves, slivered (or beet greens, slivered)

125 ml (1/2 cup) green onions, chopped

75 ml (1/3 cup) fresh dill, chopped

4-6 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped, or about 750 ml (3 cups) small red potatoes, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

125 ml (1/2 cup) sour cream

hardboiled eggs, chopped (optional)


In a large pot or stockpot, cook ham bone or ham hock in water, simmering for a few hours until meat is tender and falling off the bone. Remove the bone; roughly chop the meat and reserve. Add sorrel or beet greens, green onions, dill and potatoes to the pot and cook over medium heat, 20-30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add meat to pot, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the sour cream just before serving by placing the sour cream in a bowl, slowly adding some warm soup and stirring until smooth, and then adding sour cream-soup mixture to the soup pot. This will prevent curdling.


Tester's notes: Another great recipe, full of flavour. The sour cream gives a bit of tang. After cooking the ham, you can chill the stock and then skim off some of the congealed fat if you like.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 29, 2012 D4

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