S’Chee (Russian Cabbage and Brisket Soup)

February 3, 2009.   7 Comments.   Categories Chilis/Stews, Comfort Food, Peggy's Favorites, Soups.  

Cabbage head

S’Chee – Russian Cabbage Soup

S’Chee (I’ve been pronouncing this “Shay” my whole life and was just corrected by a nice reader who said it’s actually “Shchee”) is a very traditional Russian cabbage soup.  The recipes vary and have been passed from family to family in different regions for generations.  This is the recipe my family has used for decades (and no we aren’t Russian 🙂
Making this soup is a process and takes the better part of a day.  Plan to prepare it slowly, without pressure and enjoy the process.  You won’t believe the flavor… It makes enough for about 8-10 very healthy servings.  We used to make it and freeze smaller servings to enjoy overtime.   Once you’ve made this, this soup will become part of your family’s winter tradition too.
Ingredients, divided by steps:
3 pounds fresh beef brisket
4 pounds beef marrow bones, cracked
1 large yellow onion
3 carrots
1 parsnip
1 turnip
8 cups boiling water
3 pounds, fresh tomatoes – peeled, chopped (or 1 large can sold pack tomatoes – drained)
1.5 tablespoons of tomato paste
Herb bunch: 6 sprigs parsley, 3 leeks (white parts), 3 celery tops, 2 bay leaves, 5 sprigs of fresh dill – tie together
2 tablespoons of sea salt
1 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 pound sauerkraut
7 cups of shredded cabbage 
4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons – fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1 pint sour cream
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  In a large, shallow roasting pan arrange the meat, bones and whole/peeled onion, carrots, parsnip and turnip (all in one layer in the pan.)  Roast for 20 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, turning the meat and vegetables occasionally so they brown on all sides.  Then transfer each piece to a large soup stockpot and put remaining fat in roasting pan in a small bowl to be saved for later.
Into the roasting pan – pour the 8 cups of water.  With a metal spatula or large spoon, scrape all the remnants at the bottom of the pan and mix into the water.  Empty this mixture into the soup stockpot.  If the meat and vegetables are not covered – keep adding a bit more until they are.  Just don’t add too much of this water or the soup base will be diluted.
Adjust the temperature so the kettle is cooking over a medium heat.  As it’s cooking, use a slotted spoon to skim off the foam and scum that appears to rise to the surface.  This will happen for awhile… keep skimming. When the stock reaches a boil, turn the heat down to barely a simmer… don’t let it boil.  Skim again and then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, herb bunch and salt.  Partially cover the stockpot and simmer very slowly for about 2 hours, skimming consistently during this time.
While the stock is simmering, use your largest frying pan… heat 5-6 tablespoons of the beef fat you reserved earlier.  Add the chopped onions, celery and carrots.  Cook them over low heat, stirring occasionally until they barely color.  Just before you remove them, add the garlic. . . You don’t want to cook the garlic too long or it will burn and lose flavor.  This process will take about 15 minutes.
Wash sauerkraut in a sieve under cold water.  This will ensure the brine in the sauerkraut doesn’t overwhelm the flavors in the stock.  Squeeze all the water out of the kraut -one handful at a time and chop it up. Add sauerkraut to the same frying pan with the other vegetables.  Cook thoroughly for a minute or two on medium heat – then lower the heat and blend with other vegetables.  Cook until the cabbage begins to wilt. At that point, reduce heat again and partially cover the pan.  Add a spoonful of the stock from the stockpot every 8 minutes or so to moisten the vegetables, and let them slowly braise for about 30 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and put it aside, partially covered.
When the soup in the stockpot has cooked for about 2 hours, with a slotted spoon – remove all the vegetables and the herb bunch and throw them away.  All of their flavor is now in the stock and they are no longer needed.  Add back to the stock – the braised cabbage and vegetables.  Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and bring the soup to a boil… then reduce the heat to a low simmer.  Cook, partially covered, for another 1.5 hours.
At this point, the S’Chee should be done. However, if you feel the stock hasn’t reached it’s full flavor but the brisket is tender – temporarily remove the brisket and continue cooking the stock.  The brisket should be very tender and just falling apart… just don’t overcook the meat or it will lose this tenderness.
When you feel the soup is done… turn off the heat and remove all the marrow bones.  Just make sure all there isn’t any marrow left sticking to the bone – all of it should be in the soup, so scrape it out if you need to and add it to the soup.  This is what gives the stock its rich flavor.  Let the soup rest awhile so that the fat will rise to the top.  Skim as much of it as you can and reheat the soup again before serving.
Pour soup into large soup plates and float a tablespoon of sour cream on each serving.  If you like to serve from a tureen, pour soup into a heated tureen first and pour the 1/4 chopped dill on the top before ladling the soup into bowls.  Serve with dark bread or pumpernickel.
This soup is so flavorful and hearty, it is a meal in itself….


  1. All, this is far and away the best recipe ever for shchee….period.

    • Moderation, how? When I make this soup, this is where I start. OK, cook potatoes separately, add as served. Maybe something else. But ultimately, this is the best place to start, and if you do nothing else to it, it is still great.

  2. I found your blog on delicious. I’m glad I decided to drop by

  3. someone mentioned your site on myspace. just wanted to let you know and say hi

  4. Natasha, Thank you for correcting me! My mother and I have been pronouncing it that way for years! Oops! Well, I’m glad the recipe meets with your approval…. thanks again!

  5. This recipe looks great, but wanted to let you know it’s pronounced shchee, not shay. I’m a Russian speaker and thought you might want to know!

  6. Anything that takes this much work is going to end up being incredibly tasty! Plus, any recipe that calls for that many root veggies is going to be really hearty! Perfect for those cold Russian winters 😉

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