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Great aunt Lizi’s impact on my life pretty much ran the whole spectrum. She was responsible for our meeting with my husband back in 1967 and then years later she thought me how to make cabbage rolls and beigli. The rest of her influence was less beneficial to my overall well being, and may God forgive her for the misery she brought to the family on both sides of the Atlantic. But she was an excellent cook. I watched her make cabbage rolls once and it’s pretty much engraved into my brain. Today [thirty and some years later] I finally measured it out and wrote it down. 

The uniqueness of Hungarian cabbage rolls is in the Hungarian paprika and the sauerkraut. And one more thing! This is not a dish you can quickly throw together. This has to be lovingly created. But have one of these babies and you will think you have died and gone to heaven.

So as not to stand at the stove and watch the pot for hours, I cook my cabbage rolls in the oven. Regular casserole dishes are not deep enough; you need a rather deep pan for even a single layer of cabbage rolls. Hungarian cabbage rolls need to be cooked with some type of smoked pork meat. Today I was able to buy a nice strip of smoked ribs. But when all else fails, a small ham steak chopped up and scattered on the first layer of sauerkraut will work too. You just need something smoked in the dish. Now a lot of cabbage roll recipes will start with “rinse the cabbage” First of all the wine sauerkraut we get here in Canada are less robust; less sour. Besides I use fresh green cabbage to roll the meat into. There are reasons for that too. Whole heads of sour cabbage are not always available here, nor do they look terribly appetizing. Somehow I could never bring myself to try them, and even if I did, it could become rather expensive if you needed 2-3 heads for all the rolls. As I was saying there is no need to mess with rinsing the sauerkraut, the fresh cabbage leaves and the sauerkraut combined comes out just right, the flavours merge and they couldn’t be more perfect. I add salt only to the filling. The sauerkraut and the smoked pork or ham provides ample salt to this dish. It takes 2 days to make cabbage rolls. Assemble and cook it in the oven on day one. Then let it cool and keep it chilled overnight. The following day make the paprika roux, add to the cabbage rolls and cook for 2-1/2 hours longer. After that the cabbage rolls can be served with fresh rustic bread and sour cream. No need for anything else, all the food groups are there. Did I say these were delicious?

1 small cabbage
1/4 cup Basmati rice
3 Tbsp oil
1 onion diced
2-1/2 lb ground pork
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 lb chopped smoked ribs or diced ham
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
salt and ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Hungarian paprika
2 eggs
8 cups sauerkraut
2 peppers, chopped
3-4 tomatoes, skin removed
4 Tbsp oil
4 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp Hungarian paprika
1 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
14 % sour cream

• Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to boil.
• Then carefully, as not to cut yourself, core the cabbage with a small, sharp knife.
• Add the cabbage to the pot and start simmering it.
• Meanwhile place the rice and 1 cup of water in a small pot and bring it to boil.
• Cook the rice until half done.
• Pour off the water and set the rice aside for use later.
• Return to the cabbage simmering in the pot. The upper leaves would have softened enough to make them removable from the head without breaking. Stick a strong carving fork into the hollowed bottom and remove the cabbage onto a platter. Handle with care, it will be hot.
• Pry off as many layers as possible without breaking. You need intact cabbage leaves for rolling.
• Return the cabbage head to the simmering water.
• While the cabbage cooks, start on the stuffing.
• Dice a large onion and place it in a non stick fry pan with 3 Tbsp oil.
• Gently sauté the onions until they are very soft.
• Place the ground pork in a large bowl.
• Add the half cooked rice.
• Add the soft onions and the diced garlic.
• Add the marjoram, caraway seeds, salt and pepper and 1 Tbsp Hungarian paprika.
• Add the 2 eggs.
• With clean hands combine the meat with the onions, spices and the eggs until filling is the same throughout.
• Return to the cabbage. A few more layers of cabbage will have softened, again take the cabbage out and remove as many leaves as you you are able.
• Repeat the procedure until the leaves are too small for rolling up. Take out what remains of the cabbage and place it on a cutting board. 
• Slice the remaining head of cabbage into strips and set it aside.
• Do not discard the cabbage stock.
• Place a small handful of stuffing inside a softened cabbage leaf and wrap it up like a burrito.
• Place the cabbage rolls on a tray temporarily.
• When all the stuffing is gone you can begin the layering.
• Scatter 4 cups of sauerkraut in the pan.
• Add the fresh cabbage strips you made earlier and mix it into the sauerkraut.
• Place the smoked ribs or the diced ham on top of the sauerkraut.
• Arrange the cabbage rolls on the top.
• Add the pepper chunks and the tomatoes.
• Scatter another 4 cups of sauerkraut over everything.
• Add enough cabbage stock to cover the last layer of cabbage roll. Discard the rest.
• Place the pan in a 350F oven, cover with foil and cook for 4 hours.
• Remove from the oven and let it cool.
• With a slotted spoon transfer the cabbage rolls and the ribs into a smaller pot and cover.
• Pour the cabbage with the broth into a separate bowl and cover.
• Place everything in the fridge for the night.
• The following day make a roux in a nonstick skillet from 4 Tbsp of oil and 4 Tbsp of flour.
• Remove from the heat and stir in 3 Tbsp of sweet and 1 tsp of hot Hungarian paprika.
• Stir the paprika roux into the bowl with the cabbage.
• Taste and adjust the salt. 
• Transfer half of the thickened cabbage back into the pan the cabbage rolls were cooked in.
• Lay the ribs and the cabbage rolls on the top.
• Cover with the remaining cabbage and the remaining broth.
• Place in preheated 350F oven for 2-1/2 hours.
• Serve the cabbage rolls with sour cream and rustic white bread.

The cabbage is cored

Cabbage leaves should come off easily. If not, slide the cabbage back into the boiling water 

The half cooked rice

Diced onions

Filling ingredients

The filling is ready

Lay a bit of filling inside the cabbage leaf

Fold up the cabbage leaf around the filling like a burrito

Distribute the smoked ribs

Add the cabbage rolls

Top with fresh pepper chunks and tomatoes

Cover everyting with sauerkraut 

Make the roux

Add the layers again

Bake for 2-1/2 hours longer and cabbage rolls are ready



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It began with posting a few recipes on line for my family. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has more than 1000 Hungarian and International recipes. What started out as a private project turned into a well visited blog. The number of visitors long passed the two million mark. I organized my recipes into an on-line cookbook. On top of the page click on the cookbook to access the recipes. I am not profiting from my blog, so my visitors will not be harassed with advertising or flashy gadgets. Feel free to cut and paste my recipes for your own use. Publication is permitted as long as it is in your own words and with your own photographs. However, I would ask you for an acknowledgement and link-back to my blog. Happy cooking!