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Borscht, which is sometimes also spelled borsch and borshch, is a vegetable soup that is almost always made with beets. The use of beets in this soup lend the dish a vibrant red color. There are some versions made with without beets. There is an orange version, which is made with tomatoes, and a green one, which has a sorrel base. However, beet borscht is the most common form of this soup.
This is a very common dish in Germany and Eastern Europe. It is believed that the soup was originally created in the Ukraine and then shared with nearby countries. Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe brought borscht to the United States. Although it is not as popular as chicken noodle or tomato soups, it is common in the United States, especially in areas with large Jewish communities.
Beet borscht can be prepared and served in two distinct ways: hot and cold. The hot version is a very hearty soup that includes many vegetables in addition to beets. These may include cabbage, cucumber, beans, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes. Hot borscht might also be made with meats such as chicken, pork, or beef. Of course, in the Jewish tradition, this soup is never made with pork. When hot, it is generally more like stew than soup and is often served with dark bread.
Cold borscht is common to the culinary traditions of Ashkenazi Jews — Jews of European heritage. This soup is much thinner than hot versions, and is almost always vegetarian. It is a sweet soup made of beets, onion, a bit of sugar, and lemon juice. Cold borscht is often garnished with a dollop of sour cream at the center of the bowl.
Cold is the most common type of borscht served in the United States, because it was this type that Jewish immigrants brought with them. The soup is most common on the east coast, especially in New York. In fact, in New York City, there are dozens of diners that serve it. If you happen to find yourself in the Big Apple with a hankering for this soup, be sure to take yourself to the Carnegie Deli. While the Carnegie Deli is famous for its triple-decker sandwiches and celebrity clientele, it also serves some of the best borscht in the country.