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Beet Apple Soup

['6 beets, trimmed and scrubbed', '8 cups vegetable or chicken broth', '2 cups apple juice', '3 tablespoons unsalted butter', '3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced', '3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste (from 1 large lemon)', 'Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste', 'Crème fraîche', 'for garnish', 'optional']

1. Place the beets in a large, heavy pot and cover with the broth and juice. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 45 minutes. Transfer the beets to a bowl with a slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and cut the beets into pieces.
2. Strain broth through a fine sieve lined with two paper towels and return it to the pot.
3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium- low heat. Add the apples and sauté until just caramelized, about 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Purée the cooked beets and sautéed apples together in batches in a food processor, adding some broth through the feed tube. Return the purée to the pot and combine with the broth. Stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pass the soup through a strainer, if desired.
5. Serve the soup hot or cold, dolloped with crème fraîche if desired.

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