Ukrainian “Borshch”. Or is it “Borsht”?

Ukrainian borshch

Borsch/ borshch (bawrsh, bawrshch- bɔrʃ, bɔrʃtʃ) is cooked in many countries, and has many recipe variations. Some cook it with beets as a main ingredient, some with tomatoes. Some serve it hot, some- cold. People cook it with all kinds of meat, and sometimes even with canned fish.

Many believe that this beet based soup has Ukrainian origin. It was around 15th century, when Zaporozhian Cossacks (skilled warriors living on a territory now known as Ukraine) first cooked borshch. It was a hearty, sustaining dish, consisting of root vegetables, cabbage, and meat. They say that first borshch was cooked without potatoes, as at that time there was no such crop in Europe. Basically, Cossacks threw into the pot whatever they could find in their storage: meat, bones, and all kind of vegetables. Everything went. Being warrior-farmers, they were good at raising crops. They would store vegetables for the whole year, and make a rich stew with them, that would last for few days. It was a good source of energy, that Cossacks needed to survive through winters, and wars. Later, potato was brought to Eastern Europe from the West, together with tomatoes, and they both joined “borshch production”.

Borshch traveled to many countries and continents together with immigrants from Ukraine. Many believe that Ukrainian/ Russian beet based soup is spelled borsht, but Ukrainians and Russians call it borshch (борщ). The name borsht came from Yiddish. When big number of Eastern European Jews immigrated to the USA in 1880s, they brought their recipe of borshch with them, along with its unique spelling. Jewish immigrants were first to popularize borshch in the United States. Sweet and sour canned borsht appeared on American grocery shelves, taking on the Yiddish terminology. No wonder why people use Yiddish name borsht instead of Ukrainian/ Russian borshch.

There are many other ways to spell it, depending on which country you live in: Belarus: боршч, boršč, Czech Republic: boršč, Estonia: borš, Germany: Borschtsch, Latvia: boršs, Lithuania: barščiai, Poland: barszcz, Romania: borș.

With differences in spelling, borshch has also many recipes, and comes in different colors too. But if you want to try real, original Ukrainian borshch, you should simply come to Ukraine!

Categories: All Things Ukrainian | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Ukrainian “Borshch”. Or is it “Borsht”?

  1. Marko Karkoc

    My grandfather used to make what he called kozachir soup, i am trying to find some one with the recipe, it was not borscht. Ant help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hello Marko! Where was your grandfather from? Was he from Ukraine or Russia? I have not heard of kozachyi soup in my area, but I searched the Internet and found two recipes- one with lamb (cooked by Don kazaki in Russia), and the other one with pork and white mushrooms (cooked in Ukraine). Let me know which one you want me to post here. Happy to help!

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