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.
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.
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.