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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.
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.
My X-wife used to make stuffed cabbage rolls but she called them something else? Was it Hungarian “grape leaves”? Please advise.Thanks….Jim T.
Jim: It is either Halupki or Haluski……..My in laws and many friends and neighbors were Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak and Polish. They mostly made Stuffed Cabbage similiar, but the SOUR CREAM was a dollop on top. Sourkraut and some kind of pork was ALWAYS added to the pot. I am from Pennsylvania.
Steam the cabbage! It is quick, easy, and retains the nutrients. Core the cabbage and place it core opening down in a steam insert and pot. When the cabbage looks done – don’t burn your nose – Lift the cabbage out with some salad tongs so you don’t burn your hands either. Let cool enough you don’t burn your fingers, and peal a few layers of leaves. Place back in pot with tongs for a little longer, lift, a few more leaves. Usually takes two or three cycles.
Beef is definitely ok.
I’ve never made cabbage rolls before. Can it be made with beef instead of pork? My husband loves them but I usually turn my nose. So now I’m taking the plunge at trying to make his favorite dish.
I make cabbage rolls the way my mom used to….very similar to the recipe posted here. I often use half pork, half beef. Also, at times, (not authentic) I have used savoy cabbage because it doesn’t take as much steaming, and is easier to mold. Instead of tomato puree, I use either home canned tomatoes, or store bought canned tomatoes. My mother always added a little bit of bacon to her rantas.
First, the core must be removed in order to get the leaves to come apart. Then the cabbage is carefully put into the boiling water for a few minutes, rolled around, then taken out. CAREFULLY remove some leaves then put back into water and repeat until most of the leaves have been removed. BE CAREFUL—-easy to get splashed so best with a large pan with not much water in it.After it’s done once (or 100+ times like me) , it’s easy.
Goal is to remove the leaves and also make them pliable for filling and rolling.
Lightly rinsed or unrinsed sauerkraut is scattered among the rolls and some of the sauerkraut juice from the can goes in with the tomato juice which is then poured over the uncooked rolls. A little sugar may be added to cut the sourness and a little water can be added if the tomato flavor is too strong.(mix juices first to adjust flavor to liking THEN pour over rolls)
At our dinners, sour cream is served on the side; but i suppose it can also go on top during the last few minutes and then under the broiler till bubbly.
Hope this helps!
I love this site and have just a couple of comments about this recipe.
I wasn’t able to get the cabbage to stay submerged in the large pot of water. I tried pushing it down several times in order to get the leaves filled and then hoped it would sink. Other recipes suggest separating the leaves prior to blanching, though, perhaps, there is a risk of the leaves tearing apart.
Are the sauerkraut and sour cream to be added to the pan juices, or simmered separately?
Personally, I wouldn’t wash the sauerkraut so thoroughly next time. It has hardly any taste.
I am very excited to try this receipe. I have made them before but this sounds to good to pass up. I am having an Octoberfest dinner party at my home this weekend and am planning on using it. I will let you know the response from my company. Also, if anyone can help me out with a receipe that my neighbor will not share with me. I think she is German but not sure. A few times during the Easter Holiday she made a delicious rabbit mold made of a buttery eggie tasting cake that is delicious and I have been trying to get the receipe so my family can continue to enjoy it at that time of year…does anyone know what it’s called?? I would ever so greatful!ThanksPaula
Never tried making it with the rantas but it sounds like a good variation!
Rantas cooking in the skillet smells good enough to eat by itself ;)
My grandmother made stuffed cabbage rolls She migrated from Hungary shortly before the revolution. She made rontosh… for the sauce for the cabbage rolls.. she would heat lard/or oil/bacon grease etc… and add flour which would brown..while stirring she would then add a mixture of tomatoes and sauce.. similar to rue … then she would bake the cabbage rolls in the sauce.. it was yummy…
Stuffed cabbage can be frozen but the texture of the cabbage will be softer when thawed. The flavor will basically stay the same, though.
And as mentioned above; it’s true that the flavor will improve the second or third day!
Caraway seeds or dill weed–either one added is EXCELLENT.
It took 1 hour to prep and 1 hour to cook. The leaves were a b**ch to get off the head of cabbage. My wife and I enjoyed it on Sunday and again on Monday. The sour cream and saurkraut combination is excellent. Will do it again sometime!
This looks like a dish that could be easily adapted for use with a slow cooker and have the wonder smell to greet you at the door after a hard day’s work.
My great aunt was from the hungary/chech region and brought this recipe when she immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900’s. I was raised eating it with caraway seeds in the sauerkraut. We never have drained it and actually prefer the slightly sour taste.
Hi Elise!I’m Hungarian and this recipe is more or less really authentic and sounds very good. I love stuffed cabbage (töltött káposzta).In Hungary the cabbage leaves are also “pickled” they taste like the sauerkraut. We always make a huge batch because the dish keeps for ages and gets better and better everytime it’s reheated.
One of the secrets of good stuffed cabbage is to cook it long enough.
It must undergo a transformation that will change it (in stages) from uncooked to perfect. you will know it is done when the cabbage and tomato sauce change from pale to a rich dark reddish/orange color. Depending on the tenderness of the cabbage, it may sometimes take an extra 30-45 min. cooking time!
Also, you may increase cooking temp abt 50 deg. or so for the last 20 min. of cooking.
Many Hungarians prefer it more tangy—-just lightly rinse sauerkraut before using. Another timesaver is to use uncooked rice and for lower cholesterol just leave out egg. the rice always cooks enough and you will not notice the missing egg!
We have made stuffed cabbage for many many years and it’s a family and church dinner favorite.
I am very interrested in trying your version with the sauerkraut and sour cream. It sounds very yummy.
I had a Hungarian aunt who used a tomato based sauce for her cabbage rolls, as did my mother whose family was Polish. However, neither used sauerkraut or sour cream.
I recently made cabbage rolls for a friend from Slovenia and he said they were ALMOST as good as his mom’s. I’ll take that as a compliment because his mom is one heck of a cook.
Thanks for sharing!