Sunday, January 15, 2012

Stuffed Cabbage, Slovenian-style: Bound for Glory

This was not the first time I made stuffed cabbage.  But it was my first attempt at doing it Slovenian-style, from a vintage ethnic cookbook called Woman's Glory: The Kitchen.

I came up with a combination of three recipes I found in that yellowing book: Sarma, Sarmi, Cabbage Bundles.  Variations on a theme, but my own adaptation, for my first Slovenian Dinner in my back-to-my-roots cooking project. 

My mother really liked it.  Just like her mother's, she said.  And it was amazing, the way my Berkeley kitchen was suddenly transformed into my grandma's.  There it was: the smell of  Cleveland's East Side in the 1950s. The scent of Central Europe.  Such a mysterious alchemy, from a recipe that seemed so familiar, so unremarkable.  Maybe it was the paprika.

I liked those cabbage rolls.  So did my husband.  (It's a good thing, since we were eating them for days!)

But the recipe is not quite there yet.  It needs more onion.  More seasonings.  Next time, I may adopt the suggestion of one of those recipes, to cook the cabbage rolls on a bed of sauerkraut.  

Yes, the recipe needs some tweaking.  But it's on the way.  Bound for Glory.

Stuffed Cabbage, Slovenian Style (Sarma)

1/2 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
3/4  cup rice, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 t. paprika
1 t. fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 T. crushed tomatoes

1/2 lb. each of ground beef, pork and turkey (1 1/2 lb. total)
1 egg, beaten

1 large head green cabbage
Extra green and red cabbage leaves (next time: sauerkraut!)

Equal parts of beef broth and crushed tomatoes, mixed, to equal about 3 cups of liquid
Salt and pepper to taste

For filling:  Brown onion and garlic in oil.  Add rice and brown, then add seasonings, parsley, tomatoes, and mix.  Let cool.  Mix in meat and egg.

For cabbage: Cut out core of cabbage.  Cover in hot water and boil for about 5 minutes.  Drain and separate leaves.

To make the rolls:  Cut out the tough rib of each cabbage leaf.  Place a portion of meat on the leaf.  Roll up securely, envelope style.  Secure with toothpicks. 

Put extra cabbage leaves in bottom of large greased frying pan or Dutch oven.  Put cabbage rolls on top, packing tightly.  Add liquid, almost to cover.  Cover and simmer until done, about 1 hour.

Dober Tek!

Update:  In December, I made another version of stuffed cabbage. All beef, cauliflower instead of rice in the filling,  and baked on a bed of sauerkraut.  Go here for the recipe!

2022 10th Anniversary Update: I decided to try a different recipe from one of my newer community cookbooks: Kuharice iz Willarda, published in 1974 by a Slovenian language class in Willard, Wisconsin. This recipe was much like the one above, but the filling was more highly seasoned (a tablespoon each of salt and paprika, a whole onion), it called for a whole cup of rice, and it included an egg.  I tried a few other suggestions I'd heard about: using a savoy cabbage, freezing the whole cabbage first instead of boiling it, and using tomato juice as the liquid. And I continued with what has became my regular practice, adding a bed of sauerkraut. The result? This dish had a great flavor, but the meat filling seemed dense and dry. My conclusion:  I would follow the original recipe for the filling, although I would continue to increase the onion and spices. I liked the plain tomato juice, as well as the  savoy cabbage, which seemed softer and easier to work with. Freezing the cabbage instead of boiling it does work, but it seemed to require more care in peeling off the leaves. Happy experimenting!  


  1. Thanks, Ruth! Now you have to give me your recipe for gibanica :-)

  2. Once you try it with sauerkraut there will be no turning back to fresh cabbage! Sarma made with sauerkraut was welcome guest on our New year's eve (Silvesterski vecer) dinner table!

  3. Hello Blair, I know your blog from being on the SL geneology group on FB.. I was googling for this recipe and you were the 3rd hit! Here is another recipe with sauerkraut. I seem to remember we didnt use tomatoe at all, just kraut - sharing the link just for comparison and then going to see your other new recipe too! Thanks, Eileen Harryvan

    1. Hi Ellen,
      Thanks for writing! That link you posted is fascinating--bacon rolled up in each leaf?? First I ever saw that. Do you make it that way?