One of the organizers, Maria Koropecky (who was interviewed on the Nov. 4 edition of Nash Holos) challenged me to enter the competition, so I did.
I was honoured (and, quite frankly, astounded) that my entry won the People's Choice Award ... and also Judges' Honourable Mention.
Came home with a cash prize (which covered the cost of ingredients and gas for the drive down to Victoria) for the People's Choice Award. For the Honourable Mention, I received a copy of a great cookbook by one of the judges, Cinda Chavich, The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook: Save Food, Save Money, and Save the Planet.
The theme of this book is especially poignant, as Ukrainians tend to abhor wasting food, given how often throughout history, especially during the soviet era, it was denied them.
Along with Cinda, the other judges were Lee Aitchison,Hospitality Management Instructor at Camosun College; and Michael Tymchuk, producer of CBC's food show The Main Ingredient.
The borsch I entered was not the typical beet red that most people associate with borsch. That's because it was made with yellow (golden) beets.
It's called Remembrance Borsch, in honour of the Holodomor, the soviet-engineered famine that deliberately starved to death 7-10 million Ukrainians in 1932-33.
The colour yellow is symbolic of mourning in Ukrainian tradition, so that's why this borsch is made with yellow beets.
I've been sharing the story of Remembrance Borsch with listeners of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio for several years now. If you're not familiar with it, and would like to be, check out this blog post.
For anyone who tasted my Remembrance Borsch at the Borsch Fest and would like to try making it, I am very sorry but there is no recipe proper (as in with proportions). And I am unlikely to ever reproduce the batch I made (with the help of my friend Gerri) as I didn't keep track of the proportions I used.
However, I will share what I remember, to the best of my abillity. The rest is up to you. Which is kind of fitting, because by nature Ukrainians are very individualistic and independent ... and that is in large part why the Soviets tried to wipe them out, by starvation and other gruesome methods.
November is Holodomor Remembrance Month, and the last Saturday of November is set aside as Holodomor Remembrance Day. At sunset, candles are lit in remembrance of those who perished in this heinous, man-made famine. To me, it's very important to make this borsch and remember the millions of innocent victims, so that never again will human beings be starved by the millions merely to promote an ideology.
This recipe for Remembrance Borsch should create a reasonable facsimile of the one I made for Borsch Fest.
8-10 cups shredded or diced yellow beets
5-6 cups shredded cabbage
3 cups finely chopped onion
1-2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
6 cups diced potatoes
5 cups diced rutabaga
2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups chopped fresh dill
1/4 lb. butter
3 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp black pepper
3 litres mushroom broth
1-2 litres beetroot broth
2-3 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
Saute the mushrooms, onion, half the cabbage, and half the dill in butter until the veggies are a nice golden colour.
Put them in a large stock pot, along with the liquids, seasonings, and the rest of the veggies, except for the beets. Simmer until the potaotes and rutabaga are soft, about 1/2 hour.
Add the shredded beets, and gently simmer for about 1/2 hour.
NB: Make sure the borsch does NOT boil vigorously. Borsch should never be boiled. It makes the beets lose their colour and just does something to the taste that is less than desirable. Keep it at a gentle simmer.
This will make a huge stock pot full, about 10-12 litres, so you might want to cut the ingredients in half.
A tip for preparing the beets for borsch, especially using red beets: Scrub really well, trim off any blemishes, and put them to simmer, with the skin on. When soft, drain the beets and cool. Reserve the liquid. This will be your beetroot broth. When beets are cool, peel and shred. Adding the beets at the end will keep the beets from going white, so your borsch will have a nice, rich colour.
I hope that some day serving this yellow borsch to commemorate Holodomor Remembrance Day will be part of Ukrainian tradition. We should never forget.
If you decide to try it, I'd love to hear how yours turned out.
Meanwhile, here are some pictures from the 2nd Annual Borsch Fest in Victoria.
If you're interested in Cinda's cookbook, you can get it here: