2 carrots, divided
1 onion, divided
3 lbs beef bones with meat attached (oxtails, shanks, knuckles or a combination)
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 large beets
1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
2 russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 bay leaves
1 small handful parsley, coarsely chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon (1 tbsp)
salt and black pepper to taste
sour cream and fresh dill for serving
1. Over an open flame or under a broiler, roast 1 carrot and half of the onion until charred, about 3 minutes. Boil the bones in a large stockpot filled with water for 8 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Clean the stockpot, then return the bones to the pot along with the charred carrot and half onion and the peppercorns. Add enough cold water to cover the bones by at least 1″, about 4 quarts. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on medium-low until the meat easily separates from the bone, about 2 hours. Be sure to skim any foam or fat that accumulates on the surface. Add water to replace any that evaporates.
2. As the bones simmer, preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the beets in aluminum foil, drizzle with the olive oil, and wrap tightly. Roast until easily pierced with a fork, 45-60 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, then slip off the skins and cut the beets into French fry-sized strips. Set aside.
3. When the bones are ready, strain the broth and discard the vegetables and peppercorns, then return the broth to the stockpot. Set the meaty bones aside to cool; once cool, pick apart the meat and set aside. Discard the bones or reserve for making stock.
4. Coarsely chop the remaining half onion and grate the other carrot. In a skillet, warm the butter on medium heat, then add the chopped onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and tomato paste and sauté until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the sautéed onion and garlic paste to the broth, along with the beets, red wine vinegar, and grated carrot. Bring to a simmer on medium heat, then add the shredded cabbage and cubed potatoes. Return to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, skimming any excess fat from the surface, then stir in the meat, parsley, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, about 1/2 tsp. each.
5. Cover, remove from the heat, and allow to brew for 20 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill sprinkled on top. For a more flavorful soup, allow the soup to brew overnight and reheat the next day.
** To make this soup with premade broth, bring 2 quarts each water and beef broth to a simmer and proceed directly to step 2.
** To make it vegetarian, do the same but with 4 quarts water or vegetable broth. Vegetarian borscht is often served cold.