Kitchen mysteries

So, yesterday MrP and I went to the farmers market. The farmers markets here are just not the same as what I grew accustomed to in Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh, you wanted to buy all your produce at the farmers market because it was local, fresh, and inexpensive. Here, the farmers markets are, almost without fail, more than a few bucks over what you’ll pay at the grocery store. I still buy, because I can’t bear the thought of buying just okay produce in the summer. I need the best tomatoes, and all the zucchini I can stand, and enough cherries to kill me.

Yesterday we bought beets, tomatoes, arugula, potatoes, peaches, pickling cucumbers, pork chops, and a buffalo roast. (More and more, we’re buying our meat and eggs at the farmers markets. I won’t go on and on about factory farming, but suffice to say, it’s bad for the animals, bad for the environment, bad for you. I’m no saint, but I want to do better where I can. Besides, farm-raised chicken from the farmers market has it over Purdue any day. Barbara at Tigers & Strawberries wrote a great post on this topic that I highly recommend.)

Anyway. You already know I made that BLT Pasta (which I want to recommend to my mother – it was good, fast, and easy. Nana would like it.). Since I had meat and beets (and half a head of cabbage in fridge that needed to be used), borcht was an obvious choice. Buffalo is much, much leaner than beef, so I was thinking of something stewed or braised. Then, since MrP are slated to look at an apartment right after work tonight, I decided to put it all in the crockpot. We’ll come home to a finished dinner, just waiting for us. We’ll let it cool to room temperature and top with sour cream, because nobody’s itching for a steaming bowl of stew in 95 degree weather. I omitted the potatoes for the same reason – it may not sound like it, but it’ll actually be a fairly light meal.

I'm delicious. Don't doubt it.I started it late last night so everything would just be falling apart. But when I checked it this morning, the oddest thing had happened – the beets had lost all their color, and it wasn’t in the borscht at all. Hm? Borscht, at least every time I’ve made it, is this dark reddish-purple. Mine is… not. The beets look almost exactly like turnips. I have no idea what happened. It tastes fine, mind you, but… maybe the long, slow cooking did it? I think I’ve only ever made it on the stove in the past.

There was nothing fancy about this preparation:


  • 3 medium beets, peeled and sliced
  • 2 pounds buffalo, in 1-2-inch chunks
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 3/4 cup water or broth
  • 1/2 medium head cabbage, cored and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar, or to taste

Wrap beets in aluminum foil and roast in a 350 degree oven, for one hour.

Meanwhile, brown buffalo meat in batches in a large skillet over medium high heat. Combine with other ingredients in a crock pot set on low. When cool, peel and slice beets, and add to crock pot.


  1. Did you cut up the beets or just cook them whole? In our CSA, we’ve gotten beets with red skins and white middles…Could that be what happened?

  2. They were definitely purple through and through. The only thing I can think is that, between the moisture coming out of the tomatoes, cabbage, and meat, the color’s dissipated. But the color leaching out of the beets themselves, I just don’t get.

  3. This comment is like four days late, but can you buy amaranth at the Yes Market on Columbia? (It’s on the same block as Bedrock.)

  4. Hey, MsP–I answered your question on my own blog–but what happened is this–the chemical that gives beets their color is anthocyanin, which is both water soluable and made unstable at heat. This means, if you boil beets for a long time, you will boil all of the color away from them. Anthocyanins are made to last longer if you add a large amount of acid to the cooking water–such as lemon juice or vinegar–however, in the recipes I have seen for borscht, the beets are not added at the beginning of the cooking process, and are often roasted before adding them to the soup. Usually, they are added about an hour or so before the soup is finished cooking, thus bleeding out only enough anthocyanin to color the soup without destroying the pigment altogether.

    I hope that helps. I have a fuller answer on my blog.

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