Borsch sourdough starter

If you are not from the est part of Europe, I am pretty sure you have no idea what borsh is. I know it from Romania where it is very popular between for housewives. My mother used to buy borsh from a neighbor and she was using it to sour the soups. My grandmother was making it herself. When I was a child, lemons were a luxury fruit to destroy it to sour your soup, so everybody was counting on this miraculous yellowish liquid called borsh.

When I moved in another country I found it very difficult to match the taste of my soup with the one I knew from home. Although the quality of the vegetables ripen by the sun in Romania is incomparable to the ones you find here in the supermarket, I was missing the secret ingredient: borsh. There was nowhere to buy this fantastic liquid. 

My mother in law even brought me some starter (not sourdough based but yeast based) from Romania but unfortunately I was not very experienced to know how to keep it. I had then to through it away as it got a strange smell. 

Two years ago I got stubborn and wanted to do my own starter, not in the way is traditionally made in Romania but from sourdough. I had this wonderful bacteria fed for my bread baking and it should have been a way to make borsh from it. The challenge was to find a recipe over the web with sourdough and there were not many listed. Finally I found one, applied it and it worked partially. Why partially? Because although I got a very nice borsh, it was not sour enough. I continued with it and used it for months even without the expected strong sourness. 

But recently, I was stubborn again. It must have been a way to get your borsh from sourdough starter that actually gets really sour. I found more recipes around but many of them had no sense. This bacteria is the key to achieve this sourness. Recipes that calls to pour boiling liquid over the sourdough starter were just crap as the idea is to keep this bacteria alive to do its job, meaning to get your liquid sour. But I found one that looked more interesting, respecting this principle. I adapted it a bit and practice it. In 24 hours I've got the borsh of my dreams!

But before presenting you the recipe, let me tell you that there is more to know about this sour liquid. It is not used just to sour soups, it has much more properties and usages. From childhood, I also remember that people were using it to wake up from dizziness caused by alcohol or to avoid the next day symptoms after a big drinking night :)

This sour liquid is rich in vitamins B, C, D, H, minerals, enzymes, chrome and other amazing elements. It is used in diets before lunches as a purifying agent. A lot of people are drinking it as such because of its probiotic properties to fortify the imune system, to improve the digestive system and so on. 

But look, I am not a doctor to confirm all these and I am sure there are many articles regarding the healthy benefits of the borsh. I am here to tell you about its taste and how to make a good one yourself.

I usually use it for soups and from time to time, to taste it in the morning before breakfast.

Here is my adapted recipe:


  • 110g wheat bran
  • 215g corn flour (highly ground)
  • ~4l water. (if you do not use borsch starter then you'll need 4,5l of water)
  • 70g rye sourdough
  • 2 slices of rye bread (~50g)
  • 500ml borsch starter (optional if you make it the first time)


  1. Bring 1l of water to boil.
  2. In a heat resistant bowl, mix the corn flour with the wheat bran.
  3. Add the boiling water over the corn-wheat mixture and mix with a wooden spoon. Leave it for 10-15 minutes to cool. Adding the hot water over helps to kill unwanted bacteria from the corn and bran.
  4. Pour this mixture in a 5L jar, add on top another 1L of water (at room temperature) and mix. The idea is to reduce the temperature of the liquid to ~40ºC so that the sourdough bacteria won't die when added in.
  5. Using the same bowl in which you had the mixture, add the rye sourdough, the bread cut in small pieces and the previous Borsch starter and mix. If you do not use Borsh starter, pour some water from the remaining water quantity.
  6. Pour this mixture in the big jar.
  7. Add the remaining water (or until the jar is almost filled) and mix with a long wooden spoon.
  8. Place the jar in a warm place. I used my bread proofer on which I put a thick blanket as the jar was too high to fit the original lid of the proofer. I set the proofer at 35ºC.
  9. For the next 24 hours you'll need to mix it from time to time to help the fermentation. You'll notice that the fermentation starts and the liquid will release bubbles. 
  10. When the fermentation stops (no bubbles when mixing), your borsch is ready. If you keep it at lower temperatures than 35ºC it might take longer, 2 or 3 days even to finish the fementation. Taste it. It should have a pleasant sour aroma. 
  11. Strain the liquid and put it it in glass bottles. With the lid on, it will conserve for days (even weeks) in your fridge.
  12. From the remaining thick part keep 500g in a closed jar in the fridge. This jar may stay in your fridge for few weeks as well without any issue. The content will layer, and the liquid will stay on top. This is your next borsh starter that you'll use for the next batch. 

Inspired from here.


Unknown said...

This looks interesting. Could you kindly answer my naive question.

This recipe calls for "Rye Sourdough". Do you mean "Rye Sourdough Bread" or "Rye Sourdough"?

Thank you!

Hungry Shots said...

The ingredient called "rye sourdough" refers to the rye sourdough starter, that you feed regularly. There is also another ingredient listed, the 2 slices of bread made with rye. Both the starter and the bread helps in the fermentation of this liquid.

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