Chlodnik (Chilled Buttermilk-Beet Soup)

6 cups buttermilk (if you're in MI, the Calder brand is good)

1 lb beets + 1 cup beet cooking liquid (see recipe)

1 cup seeded & diced cucumber (½ a large English cucumber will yield this)

1 cup very thinly sliced radishes (3-5 radishes depending on size)

2-3 scallions, thinly sliced

2 Tbs finely chopped fresh dill

1½ tsp sugar

1½ tsp salt

½ cup sauerkraut + ¼ cup sauerkraut juice

optional: ½ cup sour cream

optional: hard-boiled egg quarters for garnish

Notes:

Many of the recipes I found called for some sour cream, which made for a thicker soup than what I had remembered.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you have a good quality thick buttermilk, you may not need it.  If you're using sauerkraut, use a salt-fermented sauerkraut (the Bubbies brand is awesome) rather than one in vinegar.

This recipe makes a fairly large amount of soup (about 10 cups). If you want to make a smaller batch, just use 1 quart buttermilk (4 cups), and reduce the quantities of the remaining ingredients by about 1/3. As with many soups, precision is not of the essence.

Directions:

Peel the beets with a vegetable peeler and cut into matchsticks. Raw beets don't stain much, so you don't really need to worry about wearing gloves for this.  Place the beets in a small saucepan and add water just to cover.  Cover and cook at a very low simmer until tender (do not allow to boil or they will lose their bright color).  Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.

If using the sour cream, place it in a large bowl.  Whisk in buttermilk a little at a time until the mixture is liquid and no lumps remain.  Add all remaining ingredients and stir well.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.  Refrigerate until well-chilled.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with a little sprig of dill and a couple hard-boiled egg quarters, if desired.  Pumpernickel or rye bread is good on the side.