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Traditional Romanian Cabbage Rolls are always part of our Christmas dinner! Sour cabbage (Sauerkraut) leaves stuffed with a mix of pork/beef/veal ground meat, slow cooked in tomato sauce with some smoked bacon and fresh thyme.
Traditional Romanian Cabbage Rolls (Sarmale) Recipe
How is everyone? I guess caught in the frenzy Christmas shopping.
I am an early shopper. I cannot deal with masses and masses around this time of the year. I usually finish all my Christmas shopping by December 1st.
This year I was late, just finished them 🙂 Yupi! Hopefully I did not forget anything. Since discovering Amazon Prime, I barely hit any shops. What about you, do you prefer online shopping or shops?
Now I can focus on planning all my Christmas dishes.
Christmas is always a feast!
Everyone gets to choose what they wanna have and we end up with so much food that will be more than enough for another 5 days. Kid you not!
For quite some time I wanted to start posting more personal snippets from my life, the good, the bad and why not the ugly :)… but I was always to shy to do it ☺ With a new year coming, I think I am ready to start with this new perspective and hoping you will like it.
Talking about Christmas dinner, there are always 2 special requests from my side: Romanian Cabbage Rolls stuffed with mince and Panettone.
There is no way we are celebrating Christmas without these staple dishes 🙂 As I have already shared my Panettone recipe, today we are talking about Romanian cabbage rolls (Sarmale).
Romanian cuisine is not very well known, although has some spectacular dishes (bean soup with hock, sweetbread, roasted eggplant and pepper spread, beans stew with smoked meat and the list can go on…) that I still crave for just writing this.
There is nothing light about Romanian cuisine 🙂 At least traditional cuisine that I was exposed to during my childhood. He, he… I was born in Dracula’s land 🙂 That’s what my daughter thinks of me 🙂
There are probably hundreds of various recipes for stuffed cabbage rolls. Each household changed bits and pieces to adjust it to their taste buds.
My favorite is my mum’s recipe, as you have guessed! Delicious sour cabbage rolls stuffed with a mix of pork/beef/veal mince and some rice, slow cooked in tomato sauce with some smoked bacon and fresh thyme added for at least 3 hours. Trust me, you won’t be able to stop!
I am pretty sure you’ll be able to find whole sour cabbage wherever you are in the world as long as there is a small Eastern European/ Polish shop around. Let me know if you need any information where you can source it from, as I know places in Canada, US (Pennsylvania area) and even Australia.
Romanian cabbage rolls are really easy to make but time consuming, especially the rolling part. I am always making a big pot, reserving a whole afternoon for this job.
Best part about these cabbage rolls, apart from their addictive taste is that you can have them in the fridge for at least 10 days and they will get better and better. I heard some people are freezing them but cannot say if it’s working or not because I haven’t tried.
I like to serve them really warm with a dollop of sour cream on the side, toasted bread and a jalapeño!
Hope you’ll enjoy it!
- 2 lbs/ 1 kg combined ground pork/ beef
- ½ cup arborio rice
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large sour cabbage
- 700 ml tomato juice
- 10 slices smoked bacon
- some fresh thyme sprigs
- 3-4 bay leaves
- salt and pepper
Get ready the meat stuffing.
Boil arborio rice till it's almost ready. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile chop the large onion. Sauté half of the quantity for a couple of minutes, saving the other half for later and set aside.
In a large bowl mix all types of ground meat, add sauted onions and boiled rice, dried herbs, 1 teaspoon water, salt and pepper and mix well using your hands.
Making the rolls.
Remove gently not to break them, all cabbage leaves. You will only need the large leaves to make the rolls. The middle part will be chopped and added between cabbage rolls layers. Cut each large leaf in half, removing the tough core part too to make it easier to roll them.
Add a tablespoon of ground meat mixture to each half leaf. Cover the filling with the edge from the base of the leaf. Bend edges on both sides and cover over the filling. Roll the stuffed cabbage leaf holding firm, so they won't break during cooking time. Repeat these steps until you finish all of your group meat mixture.
Roughly chop smaller leaves or some that broke during the rolling process and set aside.
Place big saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the rest of chopped onions for 2-3 minutes. Add part of chopped sour cabbage leaves and sauté for another 2 minutes. Distribute the whole mixture on an even bottom layer and turn the heat to minimum. Start adding the rolls, creating a first level. Add some chopped smoked bacon, 2 bay leaves and 4 fresh thyme springs and some more chopped sour cabbage. Start creating the second level, putting rolls to the saucepan. When you finish the layer, add some more chopped sour cabbage on top, smoked bacon, another 2 bay leaves and some fresh thyme.
Add half part sour cabbage juice and half part water to cover the rolls entirely. Place a lid on top of the saucepan and boil them on slow heat for at least 2 hours.
After 2 hours, add tomato juice to the saucepan, place back the lid and boil for another 2 hours. The total cooking time should be at least 3 hours
Serve them really warm with a dollop of sour cream onside and a jalapeño, if you like spicy