A Week of Dinners – Thursday: Cabbage Rolls

Our garden may be done for the year but that’s not true for everyone. Our local Farmer’s Market is flourishing and Curt scored a beautiful savoy cabbage last Saturday.

He has been planning tonight’s dinner all week. The recipe comes right out of the Time/Life Foods of the World series of cookbooks, in particular “The Quintet of Cuisines”. The quintet includes many more than five countries. They group them this way: 1) Switzerland.  2) The Low Countries – Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands.  3) Poland.  4) Bulgaria and Romania. 5) North Africa – Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco. By my count that’s ten. I guess they thought these countries didn’t have enough recipes to fill a cookbook on their own. I bet Poland would beg to differ.

Thursday’s dinner, Sarmale (that’s Stuffed Cabbage Leaves with Sauerkraut to you and me), came from Romania with minor tweaking on Curt’s part.  The original recipe calls for regular cabbage but he bought this gorgeous savoy

Savoy Beauty

and though it may not taste different it is definitely more beautiful. I could hardly stop taking pictures so Curt could cook it. Again the recipe will be at the end for those interested but the pictures come first.

Once the leaves have been separated from the head they have to be steamed to make them soft enough to roll. A hefty handful of filling, a mix of rice, ground pork, ground beef, onions, thyme, salt and pepper, is put on to each leaf and rolled into a nice little stocky burrito shape.

Steamed and rolled

This batch produced ten beautiful rolls.

But wait, there’s more. A mixture of sauerkraut and tomato puree, chopped bell pepper, a bit of cayenne and some bacon are layered with the rolls in a casserole then baked at 350 degrees for an hour and fifteen minutes.

Kraut layer going on top of rolls.

These were pretty hardy rolls. One roll, some kraut and a piece of bacon was a good serving. I have to say it needed more salt and some of the tomato sauce that makes Polish cabbage rolls so flavorful. But that’s easily done. And leftovers? For two people there are 4 more dinners or plenty for guests.

Tomato kraut, one cabbage roll and a thick bacon slice

The Recipe: Stuffed Cabbage Leaves with Sauerkraut (Sarmale)

1 lb sauerkraut
1 large head cabbage
1 C  white rice (we used short grained but long grained would be fine)
1 lb lean ground pork
1/2 lb lean ground beef (90%)
3 C finely chopped onions
1 tsp crumbled dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbs butter, cut into small bits
1 C tomato puree mixed with 1 C water
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 Tbs vinegar
1 C chopped green pepper
3 slices thick bacon, cut in half
Tomato relish (what we used) or 4 tomatoes cut lengthwise into quarters

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain & rinse sauerkraut, let soak in cold water. After 10-20 min, squeeze out water, set aside. Carefully peel off as many leaves of the cabbage as you can without tearing them. Steam a couple at a time for about 5 minutes. Set aside to drain and cool enough to handle them.

Cook the rice in your usual manner. Mix together the pork, beef, 1/2 cup of onions, thyme and salt. Add the rice and with your hands knead vigorously till well mixed.

Lay out a cabbage leaf and trim out the tough rib end. Put a good handful (about a 1/2 – 3/4 cup) of meat mixture in center of each leaf and roll up tightly, tucking in the ends to make a nice oblong package, like a short, stocky burrito.

In a deep pan melt the butter and add the remain onions, cook till soft and translucent but not brown. Add the tomato puree mixture, red pepper and vinegar and bring to boil. Stir in the drained sauerkraut.

In a deep casserole, spread 1/3 of the kraut mixture, arrange half of the cabbage rolls on top (we ended up with a total of 10, recipe says you’ll get 12- whatever), sprinkle on 1/3 of chopped green pepper. Then 1/2 of remaining kraut, the rest of the rolls, another 1/3 cup of chopped pepper. Finally the remaining kraut and any liquid, last of the chopped pepper and then layer the bacon and tomato relish on top. Heat the casserole on the stove top until the kraut mix starts to bubble, then bake, covered, in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Alternative: If using fresh tomato, proceed as above except for the tomato relish.  Bake, covered, for an hour, then arrange tomato wedges on top, re-cover and bake an additional fifteen minutes.

Makes 10 -12 rolls. We each had one roll, kraut and a piece of bacon. So in our house this serves a lot, depends on how hungry you and yours guests are.  How about one more cabbage picture before I go?

In all its glory.

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3 thoughts on “A Week of Dinners – Thursday: Cabbage Rolls

  1. Pingback: Not Quite Fresh from the Garden but Close | Another Stir of the Spoon

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