beetsThe Story

Beet borscht, one of my Grandmother’s signature dishes, came straight from her Russian roots into my father’s heart. He loved the stuff. So, when the weather got chilly, my Grandmother went into borscht overdrive. She always made the soup in her own kitchen, and always alone. The recipe seemed to be shrouded in secrecy. Even my father, who was a pretty good cook and a quick culinary study, couldn’t figure it out.

One day, my father finally sat his mother down to crack the borscht code. After some lengthy interpretation and negotiations, my father wrestled a recipe out of her, which was eventually handed down to me.

I’ve been toting around the recipe, with reverence, for about two decades. With Iowa’s beet bounty in hand, I finally mustered up enough courage to try it. Things didn’t go so well however. I had some problems reading the recipe off the scrappy paper, finding the right cut of meat, and getting the lima beans prepped. Nor am I not sure that my Grandmother wasn’t tricking my father when revealing the proportions. But the beets were fresh and flavorful, and brought my Russian heritage a little bit closer to my current Iowan life.

The Recipe


This is what remains of my Grandmother’s recipe. Use at your own risk. And if you have better borscht brew, send it to us at

2 quarts water
3/4 lb. flanken (beef short rib cut)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 thinly sliced carrot
2 oz blanched, peeled limas
1 bunch peeled beets
1 peeled, sliced apple
Lemon, sugar, salt to taste
Sour cream for garnish.

Boil flanken, onion, carrots, limas and water for about 1 hour (add more water if necessary)

Add whole beets, boil until soft.

Remove beets, grate them, and return back to stock, boiling for about 30 minutes (adding more water as necessary)

Add apple, lemon, sugar and salt to taste. Boil until apple dissolves.

Serve warm, with optional sour cream garnish.

Recipe courtesy of:

Wendy Wasserman
Edible Iowa River Valley

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