Both of my parents were born in Hungary, and, lucky for me, my Mom still loves to make Hungarian dishes. Stuffed Cabbage is a family favorite, especially in the colder months, and I’ve adapted my Mom’s recipe a little bit over time. If you decide to make the dish, be sure to set aside enough time (1-2 hours for prep, 4 hours or longer for cooking time). This is a great leftover meal, as it tastes better when reheated.
Paprika is a key ingredient in Hungarian cooking, so when using it, take the time to look for a good quality Paprika, preferably Hungarian. Hungarian Paprika is a little spicier than Spanish Paprika, and provides a wonderful color as well as needed flavor to the dish. Our local supermarket carries Hungarian Paprika in the spice aisle (Pride of Szeged Hungarian Paprika), and we buy a lot of our spices from Penzey’s – they have several varieties of Paprika, but I prefer to use the Hungarian Sweet.
- 1 large or 2 medium Green Cabbages
- 1 1/2 pounds Ground Beef
- 1 pound Ground Pork
- 1/4 cup non-instant Rice
- 1/4 pound Bacon, diced
- 1 medium sweet Onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons Flour
- 1 bag of fresh or one large can Sauerkraut
- 1 Green Pepper, diced
- 1Tomato, diced
- 4 tablespoons good quality Paprika, preferably Hungarian
- Kosher Salt
- Ground Black Pepper
- Sour Cream for garnish, if desired
Core cabbage(s). Bring enough water to a boil so that the entire cabbage will be emersed. Boil cabbage (one at a time if using two) for approximately 5 minutes or until leaves are starting to pull away from core. Remove from water and let cool. Once cooled off, carefully remove green leaves until you reach the tougher white leaves. Do not use the white ones for rolling as they are difficult to fold, but roughly chop a few of them to add to the stock pot.
Parboil rice for 10 minutes. While the rice is cooking, combine ground beef, pork, 3 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a bowl; mix well to incorporate salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, brown bacon in medium to large stock pot. Remove bacon and half of the grease that was rendered (discard grease). Add onions to remaining bacon grease and cook until translucent. Remove half of the onion mixture and add it along with the rice to the meat mixture; stir to incorporate the onions and rice. Add the flour to the remaining onion mixture in the stock pot and stir for a couple of minutes; this will help eliminate the flour flavor, but help to thicken the base. Add paprika and four cups of water. Stir and bring to a soft boil.
Rinse the sauerkraut in a strainer. Add the diced green pepper and tomato and gently toss to incorporate them together.
On a cutting board, trim off the tough stems of each cabbage leaf as shown in the picture below; this will make the rolling easier.
Put about a tablespoon (depending on the size of the leaf) of the filling into each leaf, and fold bottom to the middle, then each side into the middle, then roll leaf (will resemble an egg roll, as pictured below).
To assemble, put some of the leftover cut-up cabbage leaves into the bottom of the stock pot, then add a little of the sauerkraut mixture. Lightly salt and pepper contents in the pot.
Next, place cabbage rolls in a circle, and fill in gaps with the meatballs. Cover with more cut up cabbage leaves and another layer of the sauerkraut mixture. Lightly salt and pepper again. Continue until you are out of cabbage rolls and meatballs. Finish off with the sauerkraut mixture on top. Add enough water to barely cover mixture.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer/soft boil for at least 4 hours, as you are cooking raw pork. The longer you let it cook, the more flavor you will get out of the dish. Oftentimes, this dish is served with a dollup of sour cream. Enjoy!