Makes 4 cups - 4 to 6 servings
To allow time for the flavors to blend, this brilliantly colored soup is best if made a day before serving. It's delicious warm, but I also like to serve it chilled.
6 medium red beets, divided
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups coarsely shredded white cabbage
1 cup coarsely shredded carrot
2 leeks (white parts only), halved lengthwise, rinsed, and cut into ¼-inch slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups vegetable stock (prepare using stock concentrate, cubes, or powder)
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
¾ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper, sour cream, and snipped fresh dill for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Wrap 3 of the beets tightly in separate squares of foil. Place them on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven until tender when pierced with a knife tip, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, cut the remaining 3 beets into 1-inch pieces. (It's not necessary to peel them first).
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add the just-cut beets, cabbage, carrot, leeks, and garlic; cook until the vegetables are partially tender, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaf. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
When the roasted beets are done, remove them from the oven and set aside. When cool, rub off the skins under cool running water. Cut the beets into ½-inch cubes.
Drain the beet liquid through a mesh strainer over a medium bowl; discard the solids. Whisk in the sour cream. Stir in the brown sugar, vinegar, and the diced roasted beets. Season to taste.
Refrigerate in a covered container until chilled, at least 4 hours, before serving.
Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of pepper and a swirl of sour cream topped with dill.
Refrigerate this soup for up to 3 days in a covered container. Serve chilled or reheat, taking care not to let the mixture come to a boil (the sour cream may separate).