Sarmale aka Romanian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

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Sarmale is the Romanian version of stuffed cabbage leaves. Traditionally it is eaten in winter for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, however my mom makes it throughout the year (lucky us!). That is not to say we don’t follow the tradition of eating it for Christmas because we totally do and always look forward to it.

My mom has many Romanian recipes that I want to learn how to make and since John and I are living with my parents for the next 3 weeks until they close on their new house, this is the perfect time for me to learn some of them. I’ve already jotted down several and plan on sharing the recipes here.

Emily and I enjoying my mom's homemade smoked bacon last Christmas.

Emily and I enjoying my mom’s homemade smoked bacon last Christmas.

We cooked sarmale this particular time as a request for my sister-in-law, Emily’s 26th birthday. She’s not Romanian but completely loves our country’s cuisine.

 

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Before we get into the recipe, I just want to note that my mom always grinds her own pork for most Romanian recipes. She says the texture is better this way as most pre-ground pork from the store is really mushy. She uses her kitchenaid with the grinding attachment. You can grind lots of meat at one time and freeze it for later use.

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She likes to choose cuts with a lot of fat and sometimes will even add additional ground up fat if needed. She said butchers are happy to give you any fat scraps if you ask. You can freeze the fat scraps for later if you are lucky enough to collect a whole bunch. You also can use beef fat for this recipe in place of pork fat if that’s all you have.

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Chop up your meat into smaller pieces to fit into the grinder.

This recipe makes a huge batch that will have you eating sarmale leftovers for days. That is a-ok with me, but you can of course cut the recipe in half or do like my mom does and assemble the rolls and freeze them in batches for later use. You can pull them out of the freezer when ready and then start the recipe from the first layer of sauerkraut.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs pork loin (if grinding yourself) or choose pre-ground. Make sure it has a good amount of fat on it.
  • Extra fat (optional- can be beef fat, doesn’t have to be pork)
  • 2 T savory
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 medium onions, chopped finely
  • 4 T lard (or refined coconut oil or butter)
  • ½ cup rice, dry
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 7 cups sauerkraut
  • 2 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 4 tsp tomato paste
  • 4 sprigs fresh dill
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 savoy cabbages (blanch leaves to soften if using fresh) or 2 jars of preserved cabbage leaves (rinse if too salty)
  • ¼ cup thick cut bacon pieces (optional)
  • 1 pint home canned diced tomatoes or 1 15oz can diced tomatoes from the store

Instructions:

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My laptop is good to go so I can type the recipe up! Ignore the mess in the dining room…there’s no way to keep this house clean during this move.

1. Grind pork (and additional fat if necessary). Mix fat with ground pork if using.

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My mom renders her own lard, but if you need to buy it from the store then look for a local, pastured one.

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2. Saute onions in lard until softened.

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3. In a large bowl add pork, onions, savory, rice, paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly by hand.

4. In a large pot add 3 cups sauerkraut. Top with 2 tsp peppercorns.

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5. Mix 2 tsp tomato paste with ¼ cup water and pour on top of sauerkraut. Add dill including stem and bay leaves on top.

That creates the first layer of the dish. Now on to assembling the rolls!

6. Using a knife, remove thick core from cabbage leaves and cut leaf in half (or in 4ths if leaves are very large)


**Here’s a quick video I took of the rolling process, taught by an authentic Romanian lady!**

7. Grab about a meatball size amount of the pork mixture and place at larger end of cabbage leaf. Roll forward wrapping leaf around meat mixture. Tuck loose ends of leaf into sides.

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This is what the side of the rolls should look like after tucking the ends in.

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8. Place rolls on top of sauerkraut mix. Keep assembling the rest of the rolls.

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These bacon pieces were pulled from the freezer.

*Optional: You can add in thick bacon pieces among the rolls.

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10. Once all the rolls are in your pan, add more sauerkraut on top to cover, we used about 4 cups.

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11. Pour diced tomatoes on top (we used a pint of home canned)

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Showing water level.

12. Mix 2 tsp tomato paste mixed with 1 cup water and pour on top of sauerkraut. Keep adding water until water level is visible above the rolls. You want the rolls submerged so they don’t dry out during cooking.

13. Cover pot with lid and cook on stovetop for about 3 hours on medium heat. Check the water level to make sure too much doesn’t evaporate, although you don’t want it too soupy. Add more water if necessary.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top and a side of mamaliga! Mamaliga is the Romanian version of polenta.

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Sarmale with mamaliga. Christmas 2013.

Sarmale aka Romanian Stuffed Cabbage

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs pork loin (if grinding yourself) or choose pre-ground. Make sure it has a good amount of fat on it.
  • Extra fat (optional- can be beef fat, doesn’t have to be pork)
  • 2 T savory
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 medium onions, chopped finely
  • 4 T lard (or refined coconut oil or butter)
  • ½ cup rice, dry
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 7 cups sauerkraut
  • 2 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 4 tsp tomato paste
  • 4 sprigs fresh dill
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 savoy cabbages (blanch leaves to soften if using fresh) or 2 jars of preserved cabbage leaves (rinse if too salty)
  • ¼ cup thick cut bacon pieces (optional)
  • 1 pint home canned diced tomatoes or 1 15oz can diced tomatoes from the store

Instructions

  1. Grind pork with Kitchenaid Grinding Attachment (and additional fat if necessary). Mix fat with ground pork if using.
  2. Saute onions in lard until softened.
  3. In a large bowl add pork, onions, savory, rice, paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly by hand.
  4. In a large pot add 3 cups sauerkraut. Top with 2 tsp peppercorns.
  5. Mix 2 tsp tomato paste with ¼ cup water and pour on top of sauerkraut. Add dill including stem and bay leaves on top.
  6. Using a knife, remove thick core from cabbage leaves and cut leaf in half (or in 4ths if leaves are very large)
  7. Grab about a meatball size amount of the pork mixture and place at larger end of cabbage leaf. Roll forward wrapping leaf around meat mixture. Tuck loose ends of leaf into sides.
  8. Place rolls on top of sauerkraut mix. Keep assembling the rest of the rolls.
  9. Optional: You can add in thick bacon pieces among the rolls.
  10. Once all the rolls are in your pan, add more sauerkraut on top to cover, we used about 4 cups.
  11. Pour diced tomatoes on top (we used a pint of home canned)
  12. Mix 2 tsp tomato paste mixed with 1 cup water and pour on top of sauerkraut. Keep adding water until water level is visible above the rolls. You want the rolls submerged so they don’t dry out during cooking.
  13. Cover pot with lid and cook on stovetop for about 3 hours on medium heat. Check the water level to make sure too much doesn’t evaporate, although you don’t want it too soupy. Add more water if necessary.
http://www.acasablog.com/2014/09/sarmale-aka-romanian-stuffed-cabbage/

Shared at Down Home Blog Hop.

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