I grew up in a very ethnic part of Winnipeg Manitoba. Some of my fondest memories are the flavors and aromas of the many cultural foods I experienced while visiting the homes of neighborhood friends. “Sarma” Croatian Stuffed Cabbage is one of my favorite dishes to eat. This recipe takes some time to prepare but the results are worth it. Go ahead and make a large batch because Sarma freezes extremely well.
2 cups of regular green cabbage-diced
3 tbsp of tomato paste
2 large onions-diced fine
1 head of garlic-diced
1 head of sour cabbage
1 can of tomato juice – 1.36L
3 tbsp of smoked paprika
1 cup of uncooked white rice
2 cups of celery-diced
1 pound of ground pork
1 pound of ground beef
1 cup of chopped parsley
½ pound of smoked meat
2 tbsp of dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Preheat the oven to 500F while you are preparing your Sarma rolls. The Sarma will start cooking at 500F, and then be turned down to 350F for the majority of the cooking/baking time.
Prepare the sour cabbage leaves. You can soak the leaves to get rid of excess salt and vinegar. Take a paring knife and cut the core out of the cabbage. Turn the cabbage over and pull off individual leaves. Place in a large bowl that is filled with warm water. As you peel back the leaves, the stem will get thicker. You can use a paring knife to trim off the extra thickness. This makes it easier to work with the leaves when rolling them later.
While the leaves are soaking sauté the onions, celery and garlic in oil until a bit of caramelization takes place.
If there are any leftover leaves of the sour cabbage, they can be diced up fine and added to the bowl with the regular diced-up green cabbage and 3tbsp of tomato paste. This forms the base layer to put in the casserole dish before you place your Sarma rolls on top. Once mixed, put the bowl to the side.
In a large bowl combine 1 pound each of ground pork and beef, 2 eggs, 3 tbsp each of dried oregano and smoked paprika, 1 cup of uncooked rice, 1 tsp of black pepper, 1 cup of chopped parsley and 1 tsp of salt. Add in your garlic, celery and onion mix. Combine all ingredients together. You can use a spoon, but it may be more effective to put on a pair of latex gloves and mix everything well with your hands.
The rice and eggs will act as a binder when cooking. Take a scoop of the meat mixture, place on a sour cabbage leaf and roll it up. If the leaves are large, a leaf can be cut in half to adjust sizing. Push the corners of the leaf in if they are sticking out. Place on a tray or a cookie sheet.
Use a large casserole dish – or as many as you need. Spread some of the tomato paste-cabbage mixture on the bottom of your casserole dish. Place the Sarma rolls tightly together for the first layer. Then take the smoked meat and layer that on top of the Sarma rolls. Next, add more tomato paste-cabbage mixture over the smoked meat. Add another layer of Sarma rolls. Pour the can of tomato juice over everything and put the lid on the casserole dish.
Place the casserole dish in the 500F oven for about 45 minutes until the mixture starts to boil. After that, turn the oven down to 350F. Total cooking time will be around 3.5 hours. Check on the Sarma occasionally and enjoy the smell. Let rest about half an hour before serving. Enjoy!
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