TRANSYLVANIAN STUFFED CABBAGE – “ ERDELYI TOLTOTT KAPOSZTA”
There’s no Christmas Eve in my house without the delightful aroma of the stuffed cabbage cooking for hours and hours, filling up the house with that all familiar smell of Christmases long gone back in Transylvania. My usual portion is 70-90 cabbages in this household but I will give you the smaller version here. We love to have them even for breakfast during the Holidays. I can reassure you, your day is set on a positive note after this meal.
- 1 head of SOUR CABBAGE ( it must be sour cabbage!!!!!! You can find heads of already soured cabbage in ethnic Eastern European stores)
- 3 Lbs. of ground pork
- 1 egg
- ½ chopped onion
- ¾ cup of rice
- 3 Tbs. of thyme or the more authentic spice: “CIMBRU” in Romanian or “CSOMBORD” in Hungarian.
- Vegeta, black pepper and paprika to season
- 1 smoked pork knuckle – cut in pieces, but leave the bone in during cooking
- 1 pair of smoked sausage – cut in slices
- 1 Lb. of smoked bacon, Keiser – sliced in larger chunks
- 1 huge lobster pot for cooking
- 1 tomato – sliced
- 1 red onion- round sliced
- 3 Tbs. of thyme on top
Clean your kitchen sink thoroughly and fill it up with cold water. Take apart the sour cabbage one leaflet at a time and place them in the water to take out the extra salt.
Mix the ground pork with the spices, egg and rice and put it aside.
Take your big pot and start layering: smoked pork knuckle, sausage and Kaiser (smoked bacon) pieces to cover the bottom of the pan. Use only half of the smoked meats. You will need the rest for the top layer.
Now, you’re ready to fill those babies.
You must cut off the very hard middle part core section of the cabbage leaves and try to keep them intact so the filling will not burst out during cooking.
Get a handful of pork filling and start rolling it up from the harder part of the leaf towards the softer top of the leave, making sure you closed the sides also.
Now place them very close next to each other and fill up your pot only up to ¾, because during cooking the little cabbage people like to rise and overflow.
When you’re done and you might still have some leaflets unused, chop them up and sprinkle them on top.
Now you can use the rest of the smoked meats and sprinkle them on top with the onion and tomato slices and the extra thyme or “CIMBRU”. Add water to cover it and some Vegeta and a pinch of paprika and start cooking it on medium flame. Depending on the size of the cabbage of course, it could take 3-4 hours until it’s done.
Occasionally you should check the water level and add some more so the cabbage heads are always covered.
You might want to cut one up and test the doneness of the cabbage. It should be soft and not crunchy. Don’t worry about overcooking the meat; after all it’s covered by the cabbage pillow.
Enjoy it with a dollop of sour cream and some fresh bread and wait for the gates of Heaven to open up with an angelic “Alleluia!”
EGESZSEGEDRE! BON APPETITE!