My husband Jason says that beets – sweet, rich, delicious beets – taste like dirt. My Dad suggests that they’re poisonous. My friend Nancy tells me that her Mom says they taste like sticking your tongue in sand — sand that doesn’t taste very good.
I’ve tried to get them to like them, serving sugary, earthy beets balanced with sharp mustard and rich crème fraîche. I’ve offered them up in a consommé, a bowl of clear, bright ruby broth to begin Christmas dinner. Even sweet, mild golden beets, pureed with apples have failed.
Yet on a brisk fall night, the crisp air biting my nostrils with each inhalation, I wanted beets – real, hearty, Eastern European beets, rough around the edges with fresh, grassy herbs and the musty, sweet flavor of caraway.
I sautéed thick, fatty bacon, and cooked onion, thyme and caraway in the rendered drippings to infuse a rich stock. I simmered roughly diced beets and carrots in the broth before finishing it with a splash of bright vinegar. And…
The result was exactly what I wanted. Large chunks of hearty root vegetables in a thin, rich broth.
If you’re waiting for the big reveal, the moment where I convert naysayers to the true joy of the beet, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. I didn’t even bother to fill a bowl for Jason, I’ve never made it for my Dad, and won’t send any home with Nancy for her Mom.
As kids we are subject to the flavor preferences and culinary whims of our parents. However, as adults we can eat whatever we want*. And sometimes, despite your husband, your Dad, or your dear friend’s Mom, that means making yourself a big, hearty, steaming bowl of beet soup.
*Unless you’re at your Mom’s table. There you will gratefully eat whatever she puts down in front of you.
Hearty Beet Soup
This is Slavic: bold and earthy, a little rough around the edges; large chunks of beet served in a both flavored with smoky bacon and musty caraway. And, oh my gosh, is it delicious.
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs caraway seeds
- 2 tbs red miso paste (you can substitute with a splash of Worcestershire)
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 4 large beets, peeled and cut in a 1/2” dice
- Cider vinegar
- Sauté bacon in a 6 quart stock pot. Remove bacon from pot, drain on paper towels. Roughly chop cooled bacon and reserve.
- Add one onion to bacon fat and cook until softened, 5-6 minutes. Add stock, thyme springs and bay leaves. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- In a 4 quart soup pot, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add remaining onion and cook until softened, 5-6 minutes. Add caraway and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
- Add miso paste and cook 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add carrot and beet and cook for 5-6 minutes.
- Strain solids from stock. Add 6 cups of stock to the pot with the beets and carrots. Stir in chopped bacon. Simmer until vegetables are very soft, easily sliced with a knife – about 45 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, vinegar and butter. Add additional stock if you want a brothier soup.