When it began to get cold this year, I started to think of foods that people needed to turn to when all other options exhausted along with the warm weather. For many people in continental climates, like New England or Poland for instance, this means a few cruciferous vegetables, tubers, fermented goods, fats and meat. Winter to me means fewer meals, more books, cups of mulled wine (oder Glühwein in Deutschland) and stews and soups. If I can see my breath in the air, it’s probably time to head over to the market for bones to make some broth – it’s the basis for many of my meals to come.
Well, this is no stew or soup, but it embodies everything that should be cold winter food – hearty cabbage, ground, spiced meat, fermented sauerkraut, and savory, oily tomato sauce with added beef stock. Nothing better to beat away the cold. My pops sent me this recipe in the fall and it was a big hit. Thanks pops!
Stuffed Cabbage & Sauerkraut
– 1 head of cabbage
– 1 lb ground beef or pork (or mix)
– 3 onions
– 1 28 oz can of San Marzano (or any plum) tomatoes
– 3 cloves garlic
– 1 tsp dry thyme
– 2 Tbsp paprika – Turkish or Hungarian ‘real’ paprika
– 1 Tbsp caraway seeds
– 2 Tbsp tallow
– 1 cup sauerkraut
– salt and pepper — to taste
– 1/4 cup of rice or 1 cup of grated cauliflower (more primal) – uncooked
– 1/4 cup dry white wine
Core the cabbage without cutting in half, then dunk (carefully) into a tall pot of boiling water, removing about 12 leaves. If this is your first time blanching cabbage to remove the leaves in one piece.. it takes typically takes about 5-6 minutes to get the first 2 leaves ready, then about 1-2 minutes for each pair thereafter. Save rest for a soup.
Grind meat in food processor like I do along with 1 onion, 1 clove of garlic, or start with ground meat. Transfer to a bowl and add salt, pepper, thyme, 1 T paprika and rice or grated cauliflower. Stir to combine and set aside. Chop rest of onions and mince the other two cloves of garlic. Cook onion and garlic in oil until onion is soft in the tallow. Stir in tomatoes and cook until almost a paste. (optionally, you should consider tossing in about 6-7 Juniper Berries as they are the heart of Northern European cuisine in the winter… just don’t eat them afterwards whole)
Meanwhile place 2 Tbs filling in one side of cabbage leaf and roll leaf up tucking sides in. Add paprika, salt, pepper and caraway to sauce. Put half the sauerkraut in the pan. Place rolls in pan on top of sauerkraut. Add wine. Top it with the rest of the sauerkraut. Simmer over VERY low heat (I burnt the bottom myself – don’t underestimate your ability to occasionally stir when the skillet’s stuffed with stuffed rolls!) 1.5 hours adding a little water when sauce starts to get dry.
Author’s note: I can’t tell you precisely whether this is Romanian, Polish, Turkish, etc.. probably a mix of many countries in Eastern Europe and Turkey, but they all have damn good food when you open yourself up to it!
Again, amazing dish and fun to make.. I think I rolled them rather well for my first time. and rolled cabbage and meat is SO primal.. even if you opt for rice, I see it as the least offensive grain to eat.. and it’s minimal at best. There’s nothing better in the winter than the flavors of fat, sour, salt and savory with the hard to place essence of caraway.