Preparation time: 30 min.
Cooking time: 3-4 hours
Easy - for beginners
No, borscht does not normally include ham hocks, but they are one of my favorite foods. The idea struck me when I came home with beautiful beets from the farmer's market and ham hocks from Taylor's Sausage in downtown Oakland¦ and I am glad it did...
Rinse hock segments to remove any bits of bone. Put in a 12 quart pot and add enough water to cover hocks by two inches. Add the onions and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Skim the top if necessary. Simmer for 2-3 hours, until the meat is very tender. Strain the broth, reserving the hocks and discarding the onion. Allow the hocks to cool.
While hocks cool, peel and dice the beets, reserving the more tender beet greens. Add the diced beets to the broth and simmer, giving them a 10 minute head start on the other vegetables. Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes and and peel and slice the carrots. Add to the beets, along with the tomatoes. Simmer another 15 minutes.
Remove the meat, rind, and fat from the bones. Dice the rind, cut the meat into chunks, and add both to the soup. Discard the fat or chop it and add it too. Once the other vegetables are almost tender, rinse the reserved beet greens well, chop, and add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Continue simmering another 5 minutes. Mince the dill and add to the soup. Check the seasoning and then serve, with lemon wedges and hot sauce on the side.
A dollop of sour cream in each bowl is traditional too, but I skip it. Chopped cabbage (added with the tomatoes) is traditional too.
© 2011 Scott Mossman