My first experience with Borscht (a Russian soup made from beets) was in Wien (Vienna) on my mission, 7 yrs ago. My comp, Daina Svara was from Latvia, and thus, spoke Russian. That meant we got to travel across the zone to teach any Russians. At the time there was a recently baptized Russian family - 3 generations of women - Lydia, Marina, and Victoria. Such wonderful, amazing, strong women. I still love them. They were there on assylum, which means they had nothing and were living in government housing, receiving very meager money from the government for food and basic needs. But every time we visited them, maybe once every 1-2 weeks, they gave us tea, house shoes to wear, cookies, etc. And one time they fed us Borscht. They had a one and a half room apartment, and they were feeding us! Still melts my heart. They loved us and we loved them, dearly.
Daina would teach, as well as translate whatever I said, and I was able to pick up a little here and there of what they were saying, which I and they were always delighted about :). When Daina was trying to explain to me what was in Borscht, she couldn't come up with the German or English word for beets. "Es ist rot, rund..." (It's red, round...) I think it wasn't until after my mission that I figured out BEETS! I made it once from memory after I got home, but haven't made it since. I made it the other day after buying beets and cabbage, but couldn't find a recipe that sounded quite right. So, again from memory and with a little help from online recipes, this is what I came up with.
Oh, and if you've never had beets, or don't like beets, this will open your eyes. It's so delicious.
6-8 c. liquid (water or broth)
4 chk thighs, whole (i.e. with skin and bones)
3 lg beets, peeled and diced or shredded
6-8 sm. potatoes, cubed but not peeled
2 lg carrots, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
1/2 red cabbage, chopped
3/4 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp dill (start with less)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Throw it all in a pot and let it cook for an hour or more, covered, over medium heat. Everythimg should be soft and the chicken cooked through (no blood near the bones). Remove the chicken to a plate and shred, discarding the bones. You can discard the skin, too, if you'd like, but Russians don't - waste not, want not. Adjust salt and dill as desired. Serve with some hearty bread.