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We loved it! I used this as a base recipe. I doubled the meat ( I used 1lb ground pork and 1 lb meatloaf mix) adjusted the spices and rice. I did not use a head of cabbage or tomato. I added 1/2 the sauerkraut with some caraway seeds to the bottom of the pot, made large meatballs instead (the way Mom used to) and put a ham hock in the center. Added the rest of the sauerkraut added water and cooked it! Delicious!!
I am from Croatia, we also make a “sarma”with small differences in preparation. The cabbage is eaten in winter and sweet in the summer. The meat is always pork and veal because the cabbage searches for the lard, which gives the cabbage a taste, is cooked in tomato sauce. Served with corn bread.
Cabbage does not need to be boiled first. I buy it and put it right into the freezer.The night before I’m making them I take it out of the freezer to thaw. In the morning the leaves are all soft and wilted.They are very easy to work with to fill. Never boil your cabbage again.
Anybody else try this to replicate and see if it works. Sounds good.
Great tip! I’ll have to try that.
Both methods (boiled or frozen) work the same, but boy is the recipe better with pickled cabbage instead!?!?! You can usually buy the pickled heads of cabbage at Russian, Bosnian, Serbian, Greek, Polish, Romanian stores all over the country. The imported ones usually come packed individually, but some stores will pickle them in the store in big jars so you can purchase by the pound. One M/L cabbage will give you enough leaves for up to 40 cabbage rolls, depending on size and rolling skills :)
Always use fresh ground pork shoulder, with at lest 20% fat. I would avoid using the eggs and garlic as these two ingredients will give your rolls a meatballish taste, which you would want to avoid. After all, you are preparing cabbage rolls right? :) When I make them I start by putting a layer of sourkraut in a dutch oven, add several pieces of smoked bacon, smoked ribs or pork hocks, few peppercorns sprinkled over and couple bay leaves. Then, I add a layer of rolls, few more bits and pieces of smoked bacon, sprinkle paprika all over, and add another layer of cabbage rolls. Cover everything with whole cabbage leaves pour water to slightly cover everything, add the lid and then it is slow and low for about four hours, ideally over open fire,. Three hours into the boiling remove lid, add the tomato juice (diluted tomato paste), replace lid and keep boiling until ready. If you prefer them dryer, remove lid and place them in the over for 30 minutes or so, until some of the juice evaporated and rolls are starting to brown a little bit.
Serve with Sour Cream, polenta and your choice of hot peppers (fresh or picked). The result? Ultimate heavenly pleasure as the rolls melt into a symphony of tastes in your mouth.
OMG Awesome. But take 3 hours covered on low. U have to try
Elise – I just made these last night for dinner and they are absolutely incredible. They have fabulous flavor and cabbage was perfect- cooked just the right amount! Loved the sauerkraut sour cream sauce too. Thank you so much for sharing such a great recipe.
I make cabbage rolls like my polish grandmother did. I cut out the core from the cabbage and then steam it in boiling water. After pulling off the leaves, I fry the bacon and onions, cook the rice and add an egg to keep it together. Add salt and pepper. Pour the bacon and onions in and stuff the cabbage rolls. I put them in a roaster and add butter and water, cover and cook at 350 for 1 1/2 hours. I then fry the cabbage rolls in butter. Delicious!!
My friend’s mother only ever makes this dish with either home made or bought saurcraut cabbage leaves. She uses croatian vegeta stock instead of the paprika/tomato based sauce. She serves it with sour cream, horse radish cream and mashed potatoes. It’s only served after resting in the fridge for at least 2 days.
I just made this for the first time tonight. It tasted great! (I could have cooked the cabbage a little bit longer before peeling the leaves though…)
I am thinking about altering this for a South Beach diet friendly version. Any ideas?
with ground chicken / hen / turkey breast or with vegetable ( mushroom etc.)
Tried this recipe today and it was great! The sour cream with the tomato puree and saurkraut was excellent; and a suprising mixture. It will be a “make again” recipe in my household.
Thank you! I asked about what kind of rice you used. I used regular japanese short grain and it was fine.
I made the dish exactly as given and I must say that it is sooooo comforting on a cold winter day. I made it again this afternoon and I’m looking forward to making it again and again.
I will probably now try some of the variations suggested here (like maybe not rinsing the sauerkraut and MAYBE not cooking the rice beforehand) but really, your recipe is very good.
thank you so much!
thanks again for sharing!
This is a great recipe. I was born in Romania where this meal is a staple every weekend.We call them “Sarmale” or simply stuffed cabbage. In the summer we use fresh cabbage but from fall to spring we only use sour kraut ,chopped and whole leaves topped with the tomato juice. We serve the sour cream on the side together with fried pork sausages.We use the same formula for our stuffed peppers ,another staple of the Romanian Cuisine but also very popular in Italy.Thank you for this Delicious site.
We made this last week and it was a big hit. Delicious. We varied the recipe/presentation only slightly by stuffing as much pork filling into the cabbage leaves as possible, to make almost mini cabbage-skinned sausages. Very good.
Also, I will note that we used canned sauerkraut, thoroughly rinsed and drained, and the dish was very light and delicate.
Next time we will use fresh kraut and not rinse quite as much. And a shot of cider vinegar seems like a culturally appropriate addition. And use more sweet paprika.
Also, in scanning the comments above, I can attest that caraway seeds are common in Hungarian cooking and can be added to this one to stay authentic. That said, they are bitter, get stuck between your teeth and not that popular (for me) or in American cuisine, so that explains why it is missing. No loss IMHO.
I eat rice every day (am Korean) so I’m pretty sensitive to rices used in dishes. What kind of rice is used in Hungarian dishes? I’ll probably be using a long grain here. I looked over the comments too but couldn’t find any hint about the types of rice.
Regular short grain white rice. You can probably use long grain rice, just make sure it isn’t floral like jasmine rice, which would interfere with the flavor. ~Elise
I just made this tonight. It’s currently in the oven. (I prefer the oven to the stovetop.)
I’ve made this recipe before and here are the changes I’m making this time. I do a very, very quick rinse of the sauerkraut. I found that soaking for 15 minutes got rid of most of its flavor and I like a slight sour taste to the dish. Also, my friend’s Hungarian grandma suggested I mix up pork *and* beef for more of a bite, which I did tonight.
As for the cabbage, I buy a light weight cabbage. (There’s more air in between the leaves that way.) I core it, throw it in the pot, and before you know it, it starts to fan out like a flower and it’s a cinch to unfurl.
I love this website. I’m always making dishes from here. (The Hungarian goulash is a special favorite.)
This recipe is a traditional romanian recipe and the name is “Sarmalute”. I’m glad that you have the original recipe! With one exception: we don’t put sour cream in sauerkraut, we serve as a topping on rolls. And we use thyme in pork mixture.
I want also to tell you that I like your blog, especially Mex-tex recipes. Great job!
This is a gr8 recipe!! Like all recipes, I tweek ’em a bit to suit my palate. 1st, use a lightly drained can of sauerkraut. 2nd, use a quart of pureed tomatos (leave out the water). 3rd, use a peeler with those coarse, serrated teeth to core the cabbage B/4 blanching! 4th, 1 egg’ll do the job. 5th, if you use more than 8 cabbage leaves, your rolls are too small! 6th, add 1 or 2 pounds of 2″/3″ Kielbasa nuggets and let ’em cook next to your rolls. 7th, nix the sour cream!
Here’s a tip to cook the cabbage for the rolls.
Bring the water to a boil with a tsp. of salt in a large pot.
Do not core the cabbage.
Carefully place the cabbage in the boiling water.
Keep the core side up. Let the water return to a boil and cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Then turn the cabbage over in the pot core side down. As the first individual leaf softens from the outside, it will move away from the cabbage. Turn the cabbage back to core side up, hold the cabbage down with a 2 pronged fork and cut that leaf off at the core.
Place the softened semi-cooked leaf in cold water so that it does not overcook. Continue the process until you only have a small head left at the bottom of the intact core. Remove the remaining cabbage left on the core, chop it up and use it for the layers.
Ahhhh, its so good to read everyone’s comments. My dad is Hungarian too and also escaped during the revolution to South Africa and I remember him making stuffed cabbage for us when I was a child. The only problem was that I never took notes but I’m grateful for this site. Yippee! Now I’m gonna make my own stuffed cabbage.
If anyone knows the Hungarian recipe to make noodles I’d appreciate that too. Thanks.
I am Hungarian and Slovak I grew up eating stuffed cabbage and now making it from my Grandmothers recipe. We never rinsed the saurkraut and we also added caraway and a dash of apple cider vinegar. Also my family always used ground beef and uncooked rice We also added potatoes to the pot to cook along with the saurkraut and cabbage rolls. We never used a tomato based sauce. I know everyone uses that in there recipes but I always am amazed to find that.