Romanian Stuffed Cabbage Recipe - Sarmale
Prep Time:
30 Minutes
Ready In:
2 Hours 30 Minutes
1 whole head cabbage, about 4 pounds
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 finely chopped medium onion
2 minced garlic cloves
2 1/2 tablespoons raw rice
1/4 cup hot water
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 slice crustless white bread
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons water
1 cup sauerkraut juice reserved from drained sauerkraut (see below)
1 tablespoon Vegeta
10 black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
3 cups sauerkraut, drained (reserve 1 cup juice, see above), rinsed and squeezed dry
6 strips bacon
6 fresh dill sprigs
2 pounds sliced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
Remove core from cabbage. Place whole head in a large pot filled with boiling, salted water. Cover and cook 3 minutes, or until softened enough to pull off individual leaves. You will need about 18 leaves.

When leaves are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to cut away the thick center stem from each leaf, without cutting all the way through. Chop any remaining cabbage and set aside.

In a large skillet, saute chopped onion, garlic and rice in 1 tablespoon olive oil, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent. Add hot water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 5 minutes or until rice has absorbed all the water. Let cool.

Place pork in a large bowl. Quickly dip bread in water, squeeze to remove excess water and add to meat along with onion-garlic-rice mixture, combining thoroughly. Add dill, thyme, salt, pepper, hot pepper, if using, and 2 tablespoons water. Mix completely but lightly so as not to toughen the meat.

In a medium bowl, mix 3 cups water with sauerkraut juice, Vegeta, peppercorns and bay leaves, and set aside.

Place about 1/2 cup of meat mixture on each cabbage leaf. Roll away from you to encase the meat. Flip the right side of the leaf to the middle, then flip the left side. You will have something that looks like an envelope. Once again, roll away from you to create a neat little roll.

Using 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil, coat a large, lidded Dutch oven or casserole dish. Mix reserved chopped cabbage with sauerkraut and place some in the bottom of the prepared Dutch oven.

Place 3 strips bacon across sauerkraut and cover with a layer of stuffed cabbages. Add another layer of sauerkraut, bacon strips and stuffed cabbage. Then top with remaining sauerkraut. Spread dill sprigs on top and sprinkle with remaining olive oil. Pour sauerkraut juice-water mixture over all.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place Dutch oven over high heat and bring to a boil, lower heat to medium-low, cover and simmer about 20 minutes. Transfer to oven and cook 1 1/2 hours. Then add sliced tomatoes, cover and cook another 45 minutes. Remove lid and continue cooking another 15 minutes.

When ready to serve, remove bay leaves, and accompany sarmale with boiled potatoes, pasta or mamaliga (polenta).


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