Bubbie’s Russian Borscht

celiac disease

Bubbie’s Russian Borscht

This recipe serves 6 but can be doubled.

8 cups gluten-free broth (I use Herb Ox brand, but other gluten-free brands are available)
1 pound slice of very meaty and hearty beef shank with bone in
1 large onion peeled and quartered
4 large fresh beets, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
¾ cup fresh chopped dill
3 tablespoons of gluten-free red wine vinegar
1 cup sour crème
Salt and pepper to taste


Celiac Disease

1. Bring 4 cups of beef broth, the beef shank, and onion to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer until the meat is very tender, like butter, which may take about 1½ hours.
2. Take meat out of broth and trim fat and bone from meat. Discard fat and bone. Chop meat.
3. Let meat and broth cool slightly at room temperature; then, put in pot. Cover and chill in refrigerator until cold, at least 4 hours and up to one day. The longer it chills this way, the better it tastes.
4. Spoon the fat from the top of the broth and discard.
5. Add remaining 4 cups of broth, beets, carrots, and potato; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are quite tender. This may take about 30 minutes.
6. Stir in meat, cabbage, and ½ cup of dill. Cook until cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in vinegar.
7. Ladle soup into bowls and top with desired amount of sour crème and dill.

Note: This can be served hot the first time and then cold as leftover. This brings back some wonderful memories of my grandmother and the way she served this delicious soup.

*Tom Sawyer flour mixes are a close substitute to white flour that mix as well as white or wheat flour. You can purchase these products locally. For more information go to: http://www.glutenfreeflour.com/ or contact them at: Sawyer & Associates, LLC, 2155 West Highway 89A, Suite 106, Sedona, Arizona 86336 (877-372-8800).

This recipe was made by my grandmother often, and even as kids we loved it. Like my other grandmother, we used to visit my mother’s mother whom we called (Bubbie) weekly.  She was of Russian descent and immigrated to this country during the Russian revolution. She lost her parents and 8 sisters and brothers out of 11 during the war that caused her and one sister and one brother to flee to America.

She brought incredible culture, traditions, and stories with her, along with unique recipes from her mother (my great grandmother).   I have such fond memories of Bubbie.  She was a petite, pretty woman who was also very strong and had a lot of integrity.  She always dressed so nicely, and she was so sweet.  She loved her family and was very religiously Jewish.  She was my first godly example.   And so (like my other grandmother), she also had food cooking as we arrived for a visit each week.   Everything she made was kosher, healthy, delicious, well balanced, and served in small portions.  This was kind of opposite of my other grandmother who, even though she was a great cook, just didn’t know much about portions and healthy eating.  That side of my family (my father’s side) ate for fun. Everything was also made from scratch.  I was very blessed to have 2 grandmothers that were so loving, attentive, and caring.  Wonderful role models who walked the walk and truly took time with us.

Both my grandmothers took a particular interest in me as I was recovering from a burst appendix in my childhood.  Back then, because my illness was very extreme, no one realized I had Celiac disease.  I struggled with chronic abdominal problems afterwards that was assumed, even by doctors, to stem from to the appendix episode.  We believe my father’s mother had Celiac disease, and experts say it is hereditary.   She was of European/Italian descent, and it is thought to run in Irish and Italian families.  This grandmother, who cooked so much Italian food, was very sickly just as I have been.  Anyway, it was in spending the time with both grandmothers that my culinary learning began.

To expand on the childhood illness I suffered: my appendix burst and then went misdiagnosed for way too long.  The incident caused me to be out of school for almost 2 years and  to be specially tutored at home while recovering.  It was misdiagnosed for a virus.  Long story short, I actually died for a few moments and was in a coma after that incident for quite a while.  And  The recovery was long and arduous. I lived with tubes in my stomach for quite a while until I could tolerate food again.  They were also to drain the poison from all the peritonitis that had spread so far into my system.  It was a very hard thing to go through at such a young age and then to spend the rest of my life with disabilities and struggling to keep up and feel well.   One of my doctors later said, “You would have been diagnosed with the Celiac Disease much sooner, if it had not been for the appendix episode.”  I can now understand that.   So when I was later diagnosed with Celiac disease in my 30’s it took decades to feel better from all the gluten exposure!

I was very fortunate in my early years, though, that my grandparents and parents were determined to give me goals, to not only help me heal, but also to give me hope and a future as I was recovered!  They encouraged me to keep doing what I could, to have fun, and to be as busy as I could be.  I was encouraged to focus on what I could do, not on my limitations. My father also encouraged me with humor.  In spite of the physical challenges,  I have wonderful memories of my early years with my family.  Cooking and sharing family meals with lots of relatives is what I enjoyed most.  When I got well enough, my mother sent me to cooking classes at the local community center nearby where we lived.  I remember my cooking teacher, Cynthia Bernstein, till this day!  She and my mother attended the same school and class.  Cynthia was a wonderful mentor and friend to me during that time in my life.  I saw her at my mother’s funeral.  I gave her the biggest hug, and we had a chance to reminisce.  Talk about a woman of integrity!

You know, people have often asked me how I’ve done so well with all the health challenges. Well, read my story and see!  Point blank,  I always had a lot of support.  I didn’t always understand it at the time.  However, as I look back, it’s very obvious.  I think it stems back to what I was taught: “that in order to have a friend, you must first be a friend.” Hey, it works!

So, I learned to make Borscht in my visits with Bubbie, and I want to share the recipe with you.  This can be easily converted into gluten-free, as most of the ingredients are gluten-free anyway. You just have to be sure your beef broth and sour crème are from a gluten-free manufacturer.  For more information on where to find items that are truly gluten-free refer to my gluten free mall link in this blog, there’s lots of good gluten free items there.  They are reasonably priced too!     If you try this recipe, drop me a line and let me know how it goes! Thanks so much for sharing this with me!  Iris

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