Barszcz Czerwony is one of the most traditional Polish dishes you can name. It has been served in Poland for centuries.
The name Barszcz (pronounced "Bahrshch") Czerwony (pronounced "Chehr-VOHN-ih" and meaning "Red") is not the same as Russian Borscht or Ukrainian Borsch, however, they are very similar. The differences are that, in Polish Barszcz Czerwony, it is typically served as, what some call "Czysty" (pronounced "Chih-STih" and meaning "Clean" or "Clear") or "Rosol" (pronounced "Roh-Soow" and meaning "Broth") and is not made with cabbages as an ingredient. At least, those are the differences I have ever noticed.
I don't typically eat Russian Borscht, although I did grow up eating what my mother called "Barszcz Ukrainski" but which had no cabbage. In actuality, it was Barszcz Czerwony served with the vegetables in with the broth, rather than "Czysty". Personally, I don't like it with the vegetables.
Beets are also very good for you. In Poland, it is very common to drink Barszcz Czerwony as soon as you come inside from the cold, as the drink is low in calories, full of vitamins, warms you from the center, and is easy to make. I typically keep either packets of powdered Barszcz Czerwony or a pot of fresh homemade in the refrigerator during the winter, as it also improves with age.
Traditionally, Barszcz Czerwony is made with a "Kwas" (pronounced "Kvahs" and meaning "Sourness" or "Sour Starter"). I plan on making a Barszcz Czerwony in this method next week. In the meantime, the recipe below is meant for just one way you can cook it on a day when you want to eat this soup but don't have the 3 to 4 days planning which traditionally is required for it.
2 lbs. Beetroots (the smaller, the more tender)
1 Onion or the dark green tips from 1 Leek
1 handful Dried Mushrooms
1 32 oz. Box of Broth (your choice, Chicken, Beef, Vegetable) or equivalent of Homemade Broth *
4 Garlic Cloves
2 Tablespoons Marjoram
2 Allspice Berries
2 Bay Leaves
1-2 tablespoons Sugar or Buckwheat Honey
Either Lemon Juice, Red Wine Vinegar, Barszcz Concentrate, or the Juice from canned beets
Soak the Mushrooms in a cup of warm water.
Wash and scrub the Beets.
Chop to the thickness you desire.
Place in pot. I know, I am putting a lot of pictures of Beets but they are so beautiful!
Peel and dice the other Vegetables.
Pour in the Broth, then add enough Water to cover about 3 inches above beets. Add the other Vegetables and the Bay leaves.
Boil until tender.
Squeeze out the water from the Mushrooms. Add the soaking water to the soup. Dice the Mushrooms and add in to the soup. Cook for a bit longer for the flavors to blend.
Take off from the heat. The Spices and the Sour (whichever you prefer, in whichever combination, any combination is delicious) to your taste. Add the Sugar or Honey to your taste.
Pour the liquid into a bowl. Serve with Sour Cream, maybe sprinkle with Curly Parsley or Dill, if you like. You can add Meat or Mushroom Uszki (miniature pierogi), if you like.
* A Note about the Broth. The Broth I grew up with for this soup was made from the bones of Pork Cutlets, after my mother would make Kotleti Schabowe. She would cut the bones out before making the Kotleti Schabowe, but some people make the Kotleti bones-in then cut them out before serving and use the bones at that point to make the broth. This way is particularly tasty. But this time, I used Vegetable Broth, as I felt we could use a Vegetarian Day.