Reed City woman shares recipe for hearty winter soup

REED CITY — You’re bundled in a cozy sweater, snow flurries blow by the windows and the temperature outdoors continues to dip. On a cold winter day such as this, what hearty meal can both warm and fill your stomach?

During chilly weather, soups, casseroles and fresh-baked bread are the foods Brooke Whipple prepares for her family.

“There’s just something really comforting about making your own soups and breads,” Whipple said. “I think it’s just the fact you are doing it on your own, it’s winter and it’s comfort food to get you through the cold.”

Whipple knows a thing or two about cooking in cold weather. She and her family currently split time between their Osceola County farm and living in Alaska. While in Alaska, Whipple, her husband, and two children work alongside friends to build multi-ton log rafts to float down the Yukon River, selling firewood and supplies to the local villages. Their adventures were documented on the TV series, “Yukon River Run.”

A soup Whipple has been making for many years is borscht, a meal perfect for winter. Whipple first tasted the soup when she lived in Sitka, Alaska. The beet-based soup is a Ukrainian recipe, which Whipple has tweaked to make the way she enjoys it.

“It was definitely something I loosely followed and kind of made into my own, which is pretty common,” she said. “I’ve developed it over the years to make it what I like.”

Whipple’s version of the soup calls for plenty of beets and other veggies like carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. She also uses balsamic vinegar to give the soup a nice “tanginess.” For meat, Whipple puts canned venison in her soup, but she will use moose, caribou or even a beef roast.

“I’ve made it forever,” Whipple said. “I made it on the raft a lot because all the ingredients are things you don’t have to refrigerate; you can just throw them on the shelf.”

Whether roughing it in the Alaskan wilderness or curled up next to the wood stove at her Michigan farm house, a bowl of borscht is a relatively easy meal for Whipple to make.

“It’s definitely a winter soup and the nice things once it’s all together, I can put in the Crock Pot or on the wood stove and just let it simmer all day,” she said.

While the soup may not be everybody’s favorite, it’s definitely a beloved dish at the Whipple household.

“You’ll eat a bowl and be full, then a half hour later you’ll want more because you just can’t get enough of this soup,” Whipple laughed. “At least that’s our experience with it over the years. It’s filling, but you’ll go back for more because it’s so good.”

Want to try to make Brooke Whipple’s version of borscht? Here’s her recipes, honed for about 15 years. 


Use at least a 6-quart slow cooker or very large stock pot to cook, or break down the recipe for a smaller batch.


  • 1 quart home-canned venison, moose or caribou. (You can also use a small beef roast, browned in butter and cut in big chunks. The meat should cook long enough to completely break down in the soup.)
  • 1 quart home-canned tomatoes, plus 2 quarts water added
  • 3 cans beets, diced, or 6-7 fresh beets, peeled and diced. Add at least two cans additional water.
  • 6-7 carrots, diced
  • 2-3 potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 rutabaga, diced
  • 1 small-medium head of cabbage, cut up (Depending on how much liquid and room you have left in your pot!)
  • 3 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 4-6 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • Sour cream, for garnishing soup in bowl.

Add all ingredients, bring to a boil, then let simmer on a low burner or on the wood stove for several hours. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and more vinegar to taste, if desired. This soup gets even better the next day!

The vinegar adds a nice tang to the soup, and is essential to get the real flavor of borscht. All spices can be varied to taste, as can the veggies. Customize it to suit your taste!