Note: since this soup has to chill, make it at least one day before serving
For the borsh:
2 medium beets (about 3 inches in diameter), trimmed, washed, but unpeeled
2 red skinned potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 whole onion, peeled
1 tsp whole black pepper corns
1 bay leaf
2 tsp lemon or lime juice (or to taste)
1 tsp sugar (or to taste)
Salt to taste
For the toppings:
- chopped cucumber
- chopped radishes
- thinly sliced scallions
- chopped dill and/or parsley
- chopped hard boiled eggs
- sour cream or yogurt
- Put beets in a large pot. Add 3-4 quarts cold water (or enough to cover the beets completely), cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered until tender when pierced with a knife, 60-90 minutes. Remove beets from the water, cool, and rub the peel off with your hands (you'll be a little colorful for a day or so, but the beet juice does wash off).
- Add potatoes, carrots, onion, pepper corns, and bay leaf to the beet stock. Season to taste with salt. Simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. As the vegetables cook, you'll see scum rising to the top. Skim it periodically.
- Remove the onion and bay leaf from the pot.
- Grate beets and add to the pot. Take off heat immediately.
- Add lemon juice and sugar. Taste and adjust seasoning. The soup should be intensely flavorful (that's salt's job), with bright, fresh taste (that's lemon juice's job), and some sweetness for balance.
- Chill in the fridge overnight.
- To serve, pour into bowls and pass the toppings around at the table. Borsh will stay in the fridge for up to 5 days.