Mennonite Cabbage Borscht

Mennonite cabbage borscht - trust in kim

A little while ago I posted a recipe for my Mom’s borscht.  While this is a great soup recipe, I recently found out it’s not actually her recipe.  Oops!  So this is really my mom’s borscht recipe; it’s on the same page of  The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes, the bible of Mennonite cooking.  The real difference is that this one has a can of tomato soup; not very old-world traditional, but it’s the yummy soup I grew up with.  A lot of people think borscht has beets, but the beetless version is part of the Mennonite culinary tradition.

My mom makes a few changes when she cooks it: she doesn’t always use potatoes, and she usually adds some carrots. As well, she doesn’t use cream, but adds yogurt while serving.

It is best to make the broth a day ahead of time so it can cool, and the fat can be removed.

What you need:

2 lbs of beef meat and bones (or a combination of beef and chicken)

1 large onion, chopped

1 small head cabbage

3 carrots, chopped

a few tablespoons of fresh dill

1 can tomato soup (I used Campbell’s)

salt to taste

plain yogurt for serving

What you do:

1. To make the broth, cover the bones and meat with cold water and bring to a low simmer.  Simmer for 2 to 3 hours.  Strain the broth and let it cool.   Remove the meat and pull it into bite-sized pieces.  Put the meat and broth in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

2. Remove the cold fat from the top of the broth and discard it.  Pour the broth into a large pot and bring it to a low boil.

3. Add the chopped onions, meat, cabbage, carrots and dill and let it summer until the vegetables are tender.

4. Add the tomato soup and let it heat, then add salt to taste.

5. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.

This soup freezes well, and makes a big batch for leftovers or for sharing.

Mennonite Treasury of Recipes -Trust in Kim

My Mom’s Mennonite Borscht – the best!

I absolutely love my mom’s borscht, and yet I have never tried to make it. (Update – oops, this isn’t actually her recipe! This one is good too, but here’s the link to the real deal.) There’s something special about having her make it, and then give me some in a jar to take home.  But I thought I should figure out how to make it, because one day, in a long long time, she’s not going to be making it any more.  Her recipe is from the old “Mennonite Treasury of Recipes,” in which the Mennonite ladies from across Canada contributed recipes.  The first printing was in 1961, and reprinted every year after. Until at least 1975 when mine was printed.  I had it handed down to me by a great-aunt.  The original recipe is called “Cabbage Borscht,” and it includes potatoes, which I left out.  I wanted to freeze some, and I don’t think potatoes freeze well.  I also prefer the taste  it without them. I also use yogurt for putting on top, rather than the cream the recipe calls for.  I added, like my mom, dill.

This borscht has no beets in it! I know, you might think this isn’t even borscht, but trust me, it’s the best kind.  I prefer it with beef, but you can use chicken if you want.  A combination of both is good, too.  I made the broth a day ahead so I could skim the fat off once it cooled, so you’ll want to factor the extra day into it.

What you need:

2 pounds beef bones with some meat on them

8 cups water

2 carrots, sliced into rounds

1/2 head green cabbage

1 medium onion, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 star anise

3 allspice, whole

1 bay leaf

1 & 1/2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh or frozen dill (not dried! ew, it hardly tastes like dill!)

dash of pepper

1 -1&1/2 cups chopped tomatoes

plain yogurt

What you do:

1. Boil the bones in water for at least 1 & 1/2 hours. Add more water as it boils away. Remove the bones and meat, keeping the meat to add to the soup later.  Let the stock cool, then remove the fat from the top.

2. Bring the beef stock to a boil, then add the veggies and spices – everything except the salt, pepper, tomatoes and yogurt.  Cook until the veggies are tender.  Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Spoon some yogurt on top to serve.

My mom (the little one being held) with her cousins in Paraguay. My grandparents moved there from Russia, and then to Canada.

Spinach Borek with Apple Tahini Sauce

Spinach Borek is a great little vegan savoury appetizer than you can make up ahead of time, then pop in the oven as guests are arriving.  I made up the filling the day before and filled it right before putting it in the oven, but you could also fill and fold them up ahead of time.  Just put them in the fridge with a slightly damp towel over top.  I found this recipe in Molly Katzen’s ‘Enchanted Broccoli Forest’ years ago and have only slightly modified it.

What you need for the Spinach Borek:

2 packages frozen spinach

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped finely (about 1&1/2 cups)

1/2 teaspoon salt


3 cloves garlic

1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1/3 cup fine bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind

1/2 cup currants

a little grated nutmeg

1 pound filo pastry

What you need for the Apple Tahini Sauce:

1/2 cup tahini

1/4 cup apple juice, or more as needed

1 & 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of cayenne

How to make the spinach borek:

1. Thaw filo and spinach.  Filo needs a few hours to thaw; read the instructions on the label.  If you have it in the fridge, take it out at least one hour before you plan to use it.

2.  Heat about 1 tablespoon of the oil and fry the onion over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes.  Squeeze the excess moisture out of the spinach and add it to the onions, cooking for a few minutes.

3.  Remove from heat and add all the remaining ingredients and mix them in well.

4.  Lay out the filo and brush a little olive oil over the sheet.  Follow the diagram below to fold them up, then brush on  a little more olive oil before they go in the oven.

5.  Bake at 375F for 30 minutes.  These are great hot, and can also be served at room temperature.

How to make the tahini sauce:

1.  Use electric mixer to beat tahini for about 5 minutes.

2. Gradually add apple juice and cider vinegar.  Add more apple juice if it’s too thick.

Note:  if you don’t add it gradually it will become a blobby mess and the oil may separate, like it did for me.  I spent ages trying to bring it back to the consistency it should be.

3.  Add remaining ingredients and taste to see if you want to adjust the seasonings.

4.  You can keep this in the fridge for a few weeks, but keep in mind that it thickens up when it’s cold.  You may want to take it out of the fridge a while before serving so it has time to soften up.

This sauce is also great for a veggie dip, or a spread for crackers or bread.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Yogurt Dill Sauce

A branch, heavy with green tomatoes, fell off my plant the other day.  I took it as a sign that I was to make fried green tomatoes.  Now that I’ve tried them, I want to go pick some more tomatoes before they ripen so I can make some more.

What you need:

a few green tomatoes

1/4 cup fine bread crumbs




olive oil

For the sauce:

plain yogurt

fresh dill

What you do:

1.  Slice tomatoes about 1 & 1/2 to 2 cm wide.

2.  Crack the egg into a medium-sized bowl and mix with a fork.  In another bowl, place the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.

3.  Coat each tomato slice in egg, then breadcrumbs.  You’ll need to turn them over a few times, and press the breadcrumbs down a little to get a thicker coating on.

4.  Heat a frying pan to medium, then add a little olive oil.  When it’s hot, add the tomatoes.  Cook them for a few minutes on each side.

5.  While they are frying, mix up the yogurt and a little dill in a small bowl. I prefer yogurt that isn’t low-fat; the flavour is better, and I don’t feel the need to add sugar.

Enjoy them hot with a little sauce on the side.

Oma’s Dill Pickles

Mmm, there’s nothing like biting into a crisp, cold pickle out of the jar.  I prefer homemade pickles, so I can make them a little less salty than the commercial ones, and a little spicier.

The main thing to remember when pickling is to keep everything clean to get rid of any bacteria.  To do this you can boil the jars in a canning pot, put them in the oven at 250 F for 20 minutes, or run them through a hot dishwasher.

What you need:

canning jars (20lbs of pickles makes 20-24 jars – prepare more jars and lids than you think you need)  Make sure you only use proper canning jars; reused jars like commercial jam or peanut butter won’t seal properly.  You can reuse the rings from year to year, but you need to use new lids so that they will seal properly.



large canning pot

Ingredients for 5-ish jars:

5 lbs pickling cucumbers

8 cups water

1 & 1/2 cups pickling vinegar

1/4 cup pickling salt (I couldn’t find any and used kosher salt this time)

1/2 cup sugar

dill (stems and flowers, not the green feathery parts you cook with)


5 hot red peppers (thai work well)

5 cloves garlic

Here’s how you do it:

1. In each jar place some dill (I used one flower head and stalk cut up), a slice of horseradish, one pepper cut in half (don’t cut it if you don’t want the pickles to be very spicy), and one clove garlic.

2.  Cram as many clean cucumbers in as you can.  I usually start with a few big ones, and save the smaller ones to fit in between and on top.  Leave about 2cm of space between the cukes and the top of the jar.

3.  Heat brine to boiling, and make sure the water in the canning pot is boiling.

4.  Place new lids in a pot of water to heat for  a few minutes.  This sterilizes them and softens up the rubber, making it easier to get a seal.

5.  Fill each jar with brine, leaving a bit of space.  Place the lid and ring on each jar right away and tighten.  The canning pot I use fits seven jars, so I only filled seven at a time.  Place the jars in the canning pot, put the lid on and keep on high heat for just a few minutes; you don’t want to cook the pickles, so if it starts to boil you should remove them.

6.  Find a place where you can leave the jars untouched for 24-48 hours.  My Oma and Opa always put a towel on the top and bottom, so that’s what I do.

7.  Over the next day or so you’ll hear that popping sound that lets you know that your jars have sealed properly.  You can also tell they are sealed because the lid has curved down slightly, and it makes a high-pitched sound when you tap it with a spoon, instead of the dull sound of an unsealed jar.  If you happen to have one jar that doesn’t seal,  just keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

8.  I usually wait about three months before I open my first jar.  After your first try at making these, you’ll get an idea of what you want to change to make the recipe suit your tastes.  Feel  free to comment and let me know what you did differently.

Some adaptations I’ve tried are:

no garlic

more or fewer peppers

a slice of carrot or yellow bean for colour

mustard seeds

Here’s a great link for canning info!

Roasted Vegetables and Spaghetti Squash

This delicious recipe is great if you’re looking to increase your vegetable intake.  You could substitute pasta for the squash, but this is quite filling on its own.  If you want a bit of meat you could add a little hot italian sausage.

The sesame seeds are ground so they are easily digested and you can utilize their calcium and iron.

You need:

1 spaghetti squash

For the tomato sauce:

1 small onion, chopped

2-4 cloves, sliced

1 –  796 mL can crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup tomato paste

oregano – 1 teaspoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil – only fresh will do! *

1 tsp brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

For the roasted vegetables:

1 onion, chopped in large pieces

2 red, orange or yellow peppers, chopped in large pieces

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 zucchini, sliced about 2 cm

3-4 cloves garlic, cut in half

2 tablespoons olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons FRESH dill*

1/2 cup ground sesame seeds

salt and pepper

What you do:

1.  Start with the sauce.  While this cooks you will have lots of time to do the rest.  Chop onions, cook in a pot with a little olive oil, stirring occasionally for a few minutes.  Add garlic and cook until it has a hint of brown.  Add oregano, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.  Give this a stir every now and then while you work on the rest of the recipe.

2.  Preheat oven to 425F.

3.  Cut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place face down on a baking pan.

4.  Chop veggies and lay out evenly on another baking pan.

5.  Drizzle olive oil over veggies, then pour lemon juice all over them.  Sprinkle  sesame seeds over top.   Season with a little salt and pepper, and top with chopped dill.

6.  Pop the veggies and squash into the oven.  Take the veggies out about half way through and give them a little toss.  They are done when they get a little brown.  The squash is done when you can run a  fork through it and it makes those spaghetti-like strings.

7.  Just before serving, stir the basil, salt and pepper, and brown sugar into the sauce.  Adjust to taste.

8.  To serve, place some spaghetti squash on the plate, top with some sauce, then top with some veggies.  Yum!

*Some herbs taste completely different when they are dried.  Dill and basil are two of those.  When I find some great fresh basil or dill I put them in the freezer.  They are great to use in cooking – frozen basil not really great for using as a garnish or in something uncooked because it doesn’t look fresh any more, but great for sauces. Continue reading Roasted Vegetables and Spaghetti Squash