Cabbage Rolls

A cabbage roll (or stuffed cabbage) is a savory food item made with a variety of fillings wrapped in cabbage.  The filling usually includes meat, often beef or pork, seasoned with onion, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, and spices.  Other fillings vary and may include mushrooms, vegetables, sauerkraut, rice, or barley and as only the largest leaves can be used as covering, the rest of the cabbage is usually mixed into the stuffing.  Other ingredients may also be used.  The filling is stuffed in cabbage leaves, which are tucked around it like an egg roll.  It is simmered or steamed in a covered pot until cooked, and is usually eaten hot.  In Finland they are normally baked in oven and are brushed with dark syrup and traditionally served with bitter lingonberry jam or fresh lingonberries.

Cabbage rolls are part of the traditional cuisine of many Central European, Eastern European, and Balkan countries.  Although the direct heritage of cabbage rolls cannot be certain, it’s lineage can be traced back to Jewish cooking some 2,000 years ago. Recipes vary among Jewish communities depending on region; Romanians and northern Poles prefer a savory sauce, while Jews from Galicia and Ukraine favor sweet-and-sour.  They are known as holubki in both Czech and Slovak, halubcy in Belarusian, sarmale in Romanian, golubtsy in Russian, holubtsi in Ukrainian, and gołąbki in Polish (the word literally means “little pigeons”).  A common variation in Slovak, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian is halupki.  In German respectively Austrian they are known as Kohlroulade or Krautwickel, in Serbian as Sarma and in Finland as kaalikääryle.

In order to get the cabbage soft enough to form into a roll, it may be pickled (to make “sour” cabbage rolls) or blanched (to make “sweet” cabbage rolls).  A similar recipe, beet rolls, replaces the cabbage wrapping with beet leaves.

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