Sour Borș: The Secret Ingredient of the Best Romanian Soups



Romanian soups are well-known for their sweet and sour taste. It is a specific aroma rarely found in any other dish around the world. This prestige is mainly owed to the secret ingredient key to the Romanian traditional cuisine: the sour borș.

In fact, the sour borș is more versatile than you might expect. It’s a multifunctional ingredient that can be used either as a component of other dishes or consumed on its own as a sour beverage.  Let’s dive into the history, uses, and health benefits of the Romanian sour borș.

Short History of Romanian Sour Borș

There are two essential ingredients specific to Romanian culture: the specific traditional garlic sauce/juice called mujdei, and the sour borș. These ingredients are part of the national identity and have been prepared in the Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic space for centuries.

While other traditional dishes such as cabbage rolls or polenta are claimed to be created by Turks, Bulgarians, or Greeks, no other country uses the Romanian sour borș to sour up their soups the way Romanians do. And no other culture uses garlic sauce as a side for as many dishes and recipes as Romanians do.

So, while there isn’t much data about the history of sour borș, it’s clear that this ingredient is purely Romanian. And, based on its composition, the beverage also has several health benefits and therapeutic effects.

In fact, before being widely used in Romanian kitchens as a soup base or a sour beverage, it was an alternative medicine. The traditional borș was considered to have several curative properties and has been, for decades, the Romanians’ historical medication. It is a natural product, rich in vitamins, antioxidants, carbohydrates, essential amino acids, and minerals.

Today, it’s less known for its positive impact upon health and more widely known as a key ingredient in Romanian cuisine.

Cultural, Historical, and Gastronomic Facts About Borș

  1. The word borș is actually a liquid of fermented wheat bran. It is similar to the Russian kvass. In Romanian, borș is pronounced borsh.
  2. The liquid is one of the two unique creations of Romanian cuisine. It is part of the national culture and identity.
  3. Romanians often drink sour borș directly from a glass for its countless health benefits. For a better flavor, they may add sugar to the beverage.
  4. The Romanian borș is rich in vitamin B complex, vitamin C, minerals, essential amino acids, beta carotene, carbohydrates, and digestive enzymes.
  5. Due to its rich nutritional value, the sour borș was used as historical medicine for several diseases and health conditions. For example, it was used to treat chronic respiratory conditions (asthma, sinusitis, etc.). It was also used for alcoholism, chronic exhaustion, indigestion, vomiting, tuberculosis, and more. It’s also believed to have the power to prevent cancer due to a high content of ferulic acid, which is an essential antioxidant.

What Is the Romanian Sour Borș?

The term borș defines two different concepts. One is sourced in the culture and history of Romania and the other is a usual term for a Moldavian dish.

1. The Romanian sour borș is a specific, traditional ingredient used as a base for Romanian soups.

In its original sense, the word defines a homemade whitish-yellowish liquid with a turbid texture and a sour, pungent flavor. This liquid is used as a souring agent for traditional soups; it is a fermented juice, created from water and fermented wheat bran. It creates a unique flavor that strongly enhances the savor of the soup.

The same liquid is also used as a beverage with several health benefits. It is consumed directly from a glass, either as is or with added sugar.

2. The Moldavian borș is a specific type of soup, mainly consumed in Moldova, which may or may not contain Romanian sour borș.

In this case, the term borș defines the soup made with or without the fermented wheat bran. The original dish called borș is made from beet exclusively and is part of the traditional Moldavian cuisine; it is a national dish with a unique taste. It has later inspired many other Romanian recipes with no trace of beet but with generous quantities of Romanian borș.

Without further introductions, you’ll find below the complete recipe of the Romanian traditional homemade sour borș. Learn how to enhance tasty soup recipes with the secret ingredient of Romanian cuisine.

Ingredients

  • 500 grams wheat bran
  • 100 grams wheat bread or black bread
  • 3 tbsp cornmeal
  • 2 green lovage stems
  • 6–8 cherry leaves
  • 5 liters hot water (hot, but not boiling)

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, add around 250 grams of wheat bran and the bread, crumbled into small pieces. Mix in a small quantity of cold water, just enough to wet the composition and get a thick and smooth consistency.
  2. Cover the pot with a lid and let it sit at room temperature for around two days. It should be enough time for it to ferment. The result you’ll obtain after the two days—the fermented wheat bran—is called huste, or husti. This is the first part of the preparation of the final sour borș.
  3. Add the huste, the rest of the wheat bran, the cornmeal, lovage stems, and cherry leaves to a larger pot. Mix them well. Pour 4-5 liters of hot water over them, mix the composition again, and let it sit at room temperature for another day. Mix it again for at least two to three times that day.
  4. Start to periodically taste the liquid until you can taste the desired sour flavor. It can take from 15 to 24 hours.
  5. Sift the liquid through a dense cotton cloth and then pour it into glasses or jars. Close the receptacles and put them in the fridge. It can be kept this way for up to one to two weeks, until it starts changing color.

Tips

Tip 1: For the best results and unique, savory flavor, prepare sour borș only in glass or clay pots.

Tip 2: You can use the same huste for more portions of borș. More exactly, the remaining huste from the preparation of the first portion can be kept in a jar. Kept in the fridge, it can be used for up to two months. Romanian housewives used to borrow huste from one  another.

Tip 3: For a more attractive aesthetic, also add a fresh beet to the mixture. Cut it into thin slices. It will leave a nice pink-red color and might also slightly enhance the final flavor with an earthy shade.Tip 4: Keep the Romanian sour borș in plastic bottles in the fridge, making sure there is no trace of air inside. This way, the liquid will oxidize more slowly and will stay fresh longer.

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