Prepper Borscht

Cleaning out the Prepper Pantry in preparation for moving (it will take a few months to eat it all ;-) I came on a bottle of “Russian Borscht” that I’d picked up off the “clearance table” at the local grocery some year or so ago. “Normally $3”, I got it for 25 ¢

Having never had Borscht, I figured “what the heck”…

Well, not willing to move it, and don’t like the waste of just throwing things out, I decided to try it. It was pretty good.

The flavor is rather like slightly diluted Picked Beets with some garlic added. This gave me the idea to look for Borscht recipes made with canned pickled beets. There’s lots of them.

I was surprised at the long lists of ingredients in some of them. Everything from potatoes to carrots to onions and leeks and more. This borscht has just water, beets, sugar, salt, citric acid, and garlic.

Well, citric acid is there to make it have an acid aspect that seems a lot like pickled beets. You might need to adjust the sugar and salt, but those are common in prepper pantries. Water? You either have it or you are in the process of dehydrating to death. So that really just leaves garlic. I have a jug of dehydrated garlic, about 16 dry ounces, that seems to be a lifetime supply.

This jar is “Gold’s Russian style Borscht”. It was fairly nice straight. It says on the jar “[…] A natural with sour cream or chunks of potatoes, […]” and I also was looking at a can of “new potatoes”. These have a ‘distinctive’ canned flavor that isn’t my favorite in a potato… So I chunked them into bits about 2 cm x 2 cm (most were just quartered) and added them.

I was very pleased to find that the “canned potato flavor” was removed. Heated through, they are a nice addition.

In the end, this has me speculating that a decent “Prepper Borscht” that would be an adequate meal, could be made by mashing canned pickled beets, adding water and “the canning vinegar / sugar liquid” to taste, sprinkle in some garlic granules, touch of salt, and then adding some canned potato chunks. IF you have some canned carrots or other bits of stuff, those likely could go in too.

As I’m still working off a big batch of this stuff (24 oz of soup and a can of spuds) I’ve not made a test recipe batch; but someday I will. This, with some saltines and maybe a tin of sardines would be a very nice meal indeed.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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9 Responses to Prepper Borscht

  1. H.R. says:

    E.M., from the Bohemian (Czech) side of the family, an oft served side dish is canned sliced beets in sour cream. That’s it.

    Presentation: The trick is to mix it fast so the the beet juice doesn’t turn the sour cream totally pinkish-purple. It’s attractive with the whiter sour cream contrasting with the purple. But after a few servings are dished out, keeping the sour cream white is a lost cause anyhow.

    I don’t know of any family borscht recipes. There might be one. I guess they just stopped at “This is yummy. Let’s quit while we’re ahead.”

    What you’ve suggested for a prepper borscht will work. The beets play nice with those other flavors and I’m guessing that beets will work with a lot of other found-in-the-prepper-pantry stuff.

  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    You could (in an emergency) add some meat to the stew.

  3. The True Nolan says:

    @HR: ” from the Bohemian (Czech) side of the family, an oft served side dish is canned sliced beets in sour cream. That’s it.”

    My wifey thing serves that sometimes. Also, just putting a big spoon of sour cream into a bowl of borscht is good too. Heck, sour cream on/in almost anything is good!

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    Just checked my dehydrated garlic granules container. McCormick from Costco. 26 ounces or 1 pound 10 ounces. I’ve had it for “several” years. Sprinkle it on chicken that I roast, some in soups or stews. Lamb from time to time.

    I think I’ve used about 1/10 th of it… At this rate it ought to out-last me… unless my love of garlic ramps up dramatically soon ;-)

    Quality does not seem to degrade over time either. Maybe someday…

    FWIW, roasted chicken is dramatically improved (IMHO) by sprinkling garlic granules over it. I used to get pre-cooked “rotisserie” chickens from Sprouts (from their hot table) that was just better than mine, no matter what I did. One day I read the ingredients. Garlic… I was not using garlic… Since then mine have been very good too ;-)

    @Per meat:

    Some of the Borscht recipes I’ve found use beef stock, others add meat. An area for future research… I have about a 1/2 dozen cans of pickled beets and canned potatoes bought during the “stock up for lock down” 1.5 years ago. Spouse doesn’t like beets in any form, so haven’t used them up at all. So my “research plan” is to use them to make a batch of borscht per week or so until I settle on a recipe I like. Then I’ll post that as the final result. I plan to try mostly vegetarian (as prep for The AwShit does not anticipate a lot of meat…) but also some with various stored meats. I mostly have SPAM and HAM in storage (along with tuna, sardines…) and don’t know how well that will work. I do have some beef bouillon and I suppose I could go score a can of Corned Beef… which already has salt in it… so “pickled beets, canned potatoes, corned beef” ought not need salt or sugar added… hmmm…. Just a bit of garlic powder and water as needed….

    In any case, I’ll be researching both the plethora of existing recipes and Borscht in general for a while before I get to an end point. (Wonder how lamb would do… Australian Borscht? :-)


    Dad (of the Amish Mom) loved pickled beet as they had them on the farm growing up. Apparently a lot as they grew a lot of beets in that part of Iowa ’cause they grew well and the “Quasi-German via Switzerland Amish” used a lot of Germanic styles in their cooking.

    At any rate, a bowl of pickled beets were on the table from time to time. Dad loved them. I thought they were pretty good but would not stand up to a chocolate milkshake and fries (hey, I was a kid, OK?) and my sisters hated them near as I can tell. Anyway, I developed a bit of a taste for them and have them from time to time.

    We never were big on sour cream, yogurt, or really any fermented milk product past cottage cheese. Dad showed me how to make cottage cheese once… It isn’t hard at all. Another one of those “we did this a lot on the farm you need to know how to do it” things. Things I’m ever more thankful for…

    So we had Sour Cream in the restaurant, and I got a lot of it in “Onion Dip”, but that’s about it. I think it is another one of those things I need to investigate ;-) I did get into yogurt and have often made my own. It is VERY easy to make. Scald milk, cool to just warm, add a dollop of existing yogurt, put a lid on the jar in a warm place. Go to work. Come home, put it in the fridge as it is done… (Some days I’d leave it in the car as the car was solar warmed. Who needs a yogurt maker when they have a solar oven car in Florida? ;-) Made that way it is sometimes pourable as Kifir. To make it solid, I’d add about the amount of powdered milk used to make a cup of milk, to each cup of actual milk, doubling the milk solids.

    Just this year we’ve started using Kifir. Think of it as molasses consistency yogurt. Just pour it over fruit and go ;-) I’ve also used it to make biscuits that call for yogurt or sour cream to activate the riser. It’s pretty good stuff! Hmmm…. Maybe, just Maybe I’ll put a spoon or two of it into the half of the borscht that’s waiting in the fridge for tomorrow… It ought to be a very similar effect to sour cream… and I have a jug of it…

  5. The True Nolan says:

    @EM: “Scald milk, cool to just warm, add a dollop of existing yogurt, put a lid on the jar in a warm place. ”

    Placed on top of the water heater overnight works well.

  6. E.M.Smith says:


    There’s lots of “warm places” that work. IF I had an indoors water heater I’d be willing to use it, but mine is out in the garage and very dirty… At one time I had an incandescent light bulb on a dimmer in a cardboard box with a thermometer. Worked great. (Then I found just leaving it in the car during the day was fine…). Kifir was “invented” via a goatskin bag tied to a saddle and filled with milk. After running around the desert a while, the herders milk was kifir… While it is a little slower, my office / lab gets morning sun and if the door is closed, warms up a bit. Part of the year I can just set a jar in there during the warm times.

    I’m hoping that our next place has a water heater inside in a closet, so I can try your method. That would be very convenient. Open door, set jar, close door…

    Near as I can tell, “sour cream” is essentially yogurt made from cream. The species of bacteria may be different ( I need to check that…) but it’s just another fermented milk product. Wonder if folks DIY it… (time passes)…

    Looks like some folks short cut the lactic acid fermentation and just chemically sour the cream:

    What goes in sour cream?

    Homemade sour cream includes heavy cream, milk, vinegar, lemon juice, and a dash of salt.

    The vinegar and lemon are what sours the milk and gives it that tangy taste. This reaction is similar to making homemade buttermilk.

    How to make homemade sour cream

    While there are several different methods for making sour cream at home, we prefer the fast method. Add ¾ cup of heavy cream, 3 Tablespoons of whole milk, ½ teaspoon of white vinegar, and ½ teaspoon of lemon juice to a mixing bowl.

    Blend with a mixer until soft peaks start to form. Stop the moment that you see the hint of those peaks.

    Using a fork, blend in a dash of salt. Transfer the mixture to a container with a lid. Refrigerate your sour cream for at least an hour.

    Then there’s the Old Way…

    Sour cream is the delicious base for a variety of dips and sauces, and making your own couldn’t be easier. All you’ll need is a small amount of store-bought cultured buttermilk (1 percent is fine), a pint of heavy cream and a container large enough to hold the cream. To start, pour 1/4 cup of the buttermilk into the bottom of the container.

    Pour in the heavy cream, then stir or whisk to combine the cream and buttermilk thoroughly.

    Cover the container with a piece of cheesecloth, a butter muslin or a clean kitchen towel, and secure with a rubber band.

    Keep the container out in a warm environment for about 24 hours. If the ambient temperature in your kitchen is warm, you may leave the container out on the counter. Or, place it in a cool oven with the light on. Optimally you want it to be about 80 to 85 degrees F.

    After 24 hours, your sour cream should have thickened, and it will have a pleasantly tart flavor. It will cling to a spoon and will ribbon. The longer you leave the cream to culture, the thicker and tangier it will get.

    80-85 F is a common temperature in The South and any room not subject to A/C would work… or maybe just set it on the porch!

    In making yogurt, that is essentially the same process but with milk and a dollop of yogurt for starter, I use a 24 ounce jar or a 1 quart jar and just leave the lid about 1/2 turn from fully closed. I’ll fully seal it when driving, but then back it off 1/2 turn for while it is sitting in the warm car ;-) I don’t think it really needs to vent as I’m pretty sure it is not generating gasses, but didn’t want to test it…

    Essentially you don’t need a bowl, cheese cloth, rubber band, etc. I’ve even used a 24 ounce jar from store bought canned peaches. Rinse and reuse.

    These have an over-sized / odd lid that looks a lot like a standard jar size, but is about 1/8 inch bigger so you can’t use canning lids. But I still have used them as “canisters” and for things like yogurt making. So arrive at long duration hotel while “working on the road”, buy jar of peaches, eat them, 2 days later, you have a yogurt maker… buy small tub of yogurt and eat most of it, use a Tbs of it to start a batch of yogurt… Things you figure out to do when working 3 k-Miles from home living in hotels… your car and a reused fruit jar as yogurt maker…

    Next time I’m in the store I’ll need to check the Buttermilk carton to see what bacteria are in it, and are they different from those in Yogurt… I don’t normally stock Buttermilk… or cream… maybe in the future some time. I DO like Sour Cream dip and on Mexican foods…

  7. Paul, Somerset says:

    This reminds me of how I stumbled on one of my favourite recipes. A bag of prepper lentils were a year past their Best Before date, and while looking for a source of fat to simmer them with I thought I might as well use some chunks of my prepper Spam. And, as it was late autumn, and the abandoned old orchard around the corner was full of bruised, windfall apples, I cut off the good bits from some of those and tossed them in too, and simmered the lot in water until the lentils had absorbed all the moisture.

    It’s the sort of stew better suited to the English West Country, with the wind and the rain beating in off the Atlantic, than California or Florida, but good and hearty all the same.

    Incidentally, that old orchard is bordered by a single dirt track, called Pigs Loose Lane. In days gone by the locals would let their pigs run loose there to feast on the windfalls and improve the taste just before slaughter. So, there’s a bit of tradition to the recipe too.

  8. p.g.sharrow says:

    To get the real essence of DIY milk products, you must start out in the barn, milking the cow. 8-) I was married to the milk cow(s) for most of my youth and had a hand in making all that stuff, like bath hands! EVERY day, morning and evening. Thank god for the grocery store.

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Paul, Somerset:

    One wonders if that’s how an apple in a roasted pits mouth became a tradition…

    FWIW, I’m fond of “Hearty Stews”. English Mum, you see…


    As part of my “training”, we visited an Uncle’s Farm in southern Oregon. They had a cow for their milk. All us kids got a turn at milking it / training. Traditional bucket and stool, nothing electric. My sister went at it from the “wrong side” and got kicked… lesson learned.

    Other thing I learned? Never Ever have a milk cow if you can get to a grocery store…

    OTOH, the “fresh from the cow” still warm milk with full cream content was something special…

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