Transylvanian sour cabbage rolls

Stuffed cabbage can be called as one of the basic foods of the Hungarian cuisine, it has a big cult in the Hungarian inhabited regions, only stews can rival this gorgeous dish in popularity. Depending on which part of the country you live or visit, you can see many different preparation methods and recipes. There isn’t an ultimate version that stands above all, all are great in their way.

Cabbage rolls can be made with sweet or sour cabbage, with or without sauerkraut. The stuffing usually consists of ground pork (sometimes beef is added, too), uncooked rice, onion and spices. Eggs and/or flour are also added  to the meat mass to prevent the stuffing from falling to pieces, but I have already read recipes that leave out these ingredients, and call for an increased amount of rice, instead.

Putting a piece of smoked meat among the cabbage rolls significantly improves the flavor experience, but it’s very important to soak the smoked meat overnight or the dish will be unpalatable salty. Roux is optional, there are people who insist on thickening the cooking liquid with roux, but cabbage rolls without any thickening agent are also perfect. No matter how you cook it, stuffed cabbage is one of those dishes that develops more flavor as it sits. I suggest making this dish beforehand, leftovers always taste better.

Transylvanian cabbage rolls are made with sauerkraut and sour cabbage leaves, turbo charged with some smoked pork knuckle. They are cooked long on the stove and the cooking liquid isn’t thickened with roux. What makes this dish different is seasoning: the stuffing is relished with summer savory and finely chopped dill.

Transylvanian sour cabbage rolls

Ingredients:

  • 700 g (~1 1/2 lb) minced pork
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lard
  • 1 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 70 g (~2 1/2 oz) smoked bacon
  • 1 tsp summer savory
  • 2-3 tsp chopped dill
  • 2-3 tsp salt
  • 250 g (~1 1/4 cup) rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 600 g (~1 1/3 lb) smoked pork knuckle or ribs
  • 30-32 sour cabbage leaves (1-2 sour cabbage heads depending on size)
  • 1 kg (~2 lb) sauerkraut

Soak the smoked meat in water overnight. (Soaking helps reduce the salt content).

In a skillet melt the lard, add finely chopped onions and sauté until very soft. Set aside and let it cool.

Grind the smoked bacon. Rinse and drain the rice. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix minced pork with sautéed onions, rice, ground bacon, eggs, salt, paprika, summer savory and chopped dill.

Wash and drain the sauerkraut and sour cabbage leaves. Cut off the hard rib from the base of each leaf.

Place a small handful of stuffing on each cabbage leaf. Flip the left side of the leaf to the middle, roll it up and gently tuck in the end of the cabbage. Cut any remaining cabbage leaves into fine shreds.

Sour cabbage rollsSour cabbage rollsphoto: zserbo.com

Scatter half of the sauerkraut in a large cooking pot. Place the smoked meat on the sauerkraut, then arrange the cabbage rolls, seam side down, around and on top of the meat. Scatter the remaining sauerkraut over the top. Pour in enough water to cover the cabbage rolls. Cover the pot and gently simmer on the stove for about 2,5-3 hours – don’t forget to shake the pot from time to time, so the rolls don’t stick to the bottom.

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