Ok - so my mom's parents were from Poland and they immigrated to France when Hitler came to visit, thus mom was raised in France. This being said we have a mixed bag of culinary traditions in our family. Christmas Eve is a prime example - over time a typically Polish meal of golombki, peirogi, ham and white borscht now includes a Tamale course thanks to years of living in the Southwest.
The white borscht mom serves on Christmas Eve is the same that we ate at Easter but the Easter version included some chopped egg as well. As a child, teen and young adult I have to say I really didn’t like borscht – I think it had to do with being forced to eat it as a child. Not surprisingly, those who have joined the family through marriage really seem to like it. So, while I have made an effort to learn how to make pierogi’s and could probably manage a half way decent golombki – the white borchst is out of my league.
Now you may be asking where is this post going ... and here is the deal, I really want to make this for Christmas Eve this year. Sadly, my mom is in the moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease and you just never know what she will and will not recall. Last year’s tradition held and dinner was at mom and dad’s but mom’s borscht just didn’t taste like it always did. This year – the family will gather at my home and while none of us love the stuff , there is a certain nostalgia that makes me want to serve it and more importantly, I would like to make it for mom, who while she may not recognize it I expect will like the taste.
This is what I do remember about how mom makes her White Borscht. She starts by making a stock a couple days before that she uses smoked ham hocks as the base (this tells me to be cautious with the salt). The stock is chilled and de-fatted. The meat gets picked off the bone to add back to the soup and from time to time some cubed kielbasa made it in as well. I guess what comes next is what the real question is. I know that the soup is thickened with some corn starch and water and I know some combination of sour cream and horseradish get added for flavor, creaminess and the distinct tartness that this soup has. I don’t remember any milk or cream being added. For many years this soup was topped with reconstituted, creamy, Polish mushrooms that relatives would send my mom. This is where some of the breakdown occurred last year, I think she used dried porcini and they just didn’t have the same and certainly not distinct flavor the Polish mushrooms did. I would like to try and determine what type of dried mushroom is used in Poland and try to find some before Christmas Eve.
So with the description above if anyone has any pointers or suggestions on how to pull this soup together I would appreciate it. I have searched the web for recipes for white borscht but most use a soured flour mixture which I know mom did not.