Biking & Borscht

Saturday we biked around Sullivan County, New York.

We parked at the bucolic Stone Arch Bridge, built by Swiss immigrants in 1880.  In January 1892, the bridge earned the “Hex Murder” moniker when father and son Adam and Joseph Heidt killed George Market while he was crossing the bridge. The Heidts believed that Market had put a spell or hex on them, hence the murder.  Market’s ghost apparently frequents the bridge.  

Our route took us through rolling hills and past farms: cows, horses, goats and sheep. I was happy to turn off before reaching the hog farm; the stench alone made me pedal faster.

This area of the Catskill Mountains was once known as the Borscht Belt, or Jewish Alps.   Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants escaped New York City’s summer heat and tuberculosis, staying in hotels, bungalow colonies, boarding houses, and summer camps from the 1920s through the 1960s.  Many Jewish entertainers, unable to find work because of anti-Semitism, got their start on the Borscht Belt circuit, Al Jolson, Fannie Brice, Henny Youngman, Milton Berle, Danny Kaye, and Lenny Bruce among them.

Named after the soup, borscht is a staple of Eastern and Central European cuisine and is usually made with beets.  My mother makes hers with beets, cabbage, bits of beef, caraway and dill. I love it hot in the winter.

At one point, taking a brief rest to check the map at the crest of a hill, we saw coming toward us groups of Orthodox Jews in the midst of their Sabbath stroll. Though most of the area’s resorts are closed, the summer colonies remain popular retreats.

After about 25 miles, we cooled off in the creek and drove to Callicoon to meet my parents for dinner at Matthew’s On Main. 

Matthew’s family used to rent a house across from the house where I grew up in Killingworth, CT, so we’ve known each other a long time.  We hadn’t been in touch at all until last summer when we stumbled upon Callicoon while biking and saw the restaurant.

I felt it fitting to order his Strawberry Borscht.

Matthew Lanes’ Strawberry Borscht:  

1 minced red onion

2 tblspn sugar

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 tspn freshly toasted

coriander seed ground

w/ mortar and pestle

1/2 cup cider vinegar

Combine these ingredients in a bowl mix them well.

5 cups fresh strawberries

cut 3 cups into bite size


3 12oz cans cooked beets.

Save the liquid and cut

the beets as the strawbs

Salt and Pepper

Add the cut pieces to the bowl w/ the other ingredients.

Now take the other 2 cups of strawberries and the beet juice and puree in a blender, then add to the bowl and stir well. You may want to  add water and check the seasoning. Cover and chill before serving, 3 hours or overnight.

Garnish w/ sour cream

He added this caveat: “Lisa, my cooking is intuitive and from the heart. Sans recipes it floats through my head and gets tweaked each time I make it.”

Sounds like how my grandmothers cooked.

This entry was posted in Cycling, Family, food, Judaism, postaweek2011, Recipes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Biking & Borscht

  1. Hi Lisa,
    Recipe sound quite interesting! I may give it a try!


  2. I love anything beets but not pickled. Can’t go wrong with strawberries. Loved this. Had it 2 visits.
    Love the restaurant. He uses all local produce and meats. (we saw the farms.)


  3. Madeline Taylor says:

    Sorry – that sounds like some fru fru, high falutin’, tony soup that one would find sharing a shelf with the likes of watercress soup, cold cherry soup and canteloupe soup. Those are NOT soups. Go back in memory to that house on Chestnuthill Road and remember a soup is hot, hearty, filled with chunks of yummy yet not always identifiable objects and packs a full course meal into every spoonful. It does not have delicate things like strawberries and lingerie. Certainly NOT the great ones MY mother made (and still makes) for us!


  4. Madeline,
    On a hot day, an ice cold soup hits the spot; be it gazpacho or borscht. On a cold day, I’m all for hot, stewy soups!


  5. Leah says:

    Despite my Jewish heritage, I’ve never been a big fan of borscht. Maybe I just haven’t found the right recipe. By the way, I finished a great book “Growing up at Grossingers” about life at one of the famous Catskills resorts. It was fascinating. You would enjoy it too.


  6. Thanks for the comment and book suggestion; I’ll look for it.
    My photo doesn’t do this recipe justice; it really is refreshing and different.
    The hot old-fashioned, old-country borscht is an acquired taste, I suppose. But my husband, who hates beets in every other form, will eat it. I can get you my mother’s recipe if you want.


  7. Mmm, i like borscht in any form, hot or cold. But I’m Polish so it goes hand in hand with loving potatoes. I think the very handsome Tony Curtis also got a start with a summer troupe in the Catskills as well.


    • Thanks for your comment! Are you Stella’s sister-in-law?
      I spent 4 1/2 years in London as an expat; we loved it but it was time to come home after the 2 boys were born.
      I’m sure many famous actors got their starts in the Catskills; particularly the Jews who faced anti-Semitism in Hollywood.


  8. Barbara W. Klein says:

    Reminicent of Judy Gordon’s and Selma Lanes’s RAsberry borscht made with raspberries from Allen Nevin’s Garden, Vintage l965


  9. Pingback: Grandkids & Cycling: Happy July! | cyclingrandma

  10. David Klein says:

    My Russian mother-in-law makes a cold beet soup, called svekolnik, in the summer time, svekla being the word for beet. Also popular is a cold sorrel soup, called shchavelnik (or green borsht). Shchavel is the word for sorrel, a sour tasting plant that grows like a weed in our garden. Also in her repertoire is a watermelon gazpacho (not Russian). The gazpacho isn’t really sweet because it has many of the more traditional gazpacho ingredients in it. It’s well loved by all in our family.


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