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Holúbky Starej Mamy (Plnená Kapusta)

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 12 February 2010 at 11:58
Holúbky Starej Mamy (Plnená Kapusta)
Grandma's Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Also known as "Pigs in a Blanket"
 
This traditional Slovak dish is highly celebrated, very easy and beyond delicious - perfect comfort food for those days when you miss your grandmother; in fact, this recipe comes from my wife’s grandmother, Mary Macejko Milot, who emigrated from Žakarovce, Slovakia to Sand Coulee, Montana around 1920. 
 
This pictorial is part of a series that I am compiling in her honour, which includes her halušky (potato dumplings), her her koláče (poppy seed or walnut rolls), and her Veľkonočné syr (Easter cheese).
 
Mary left behind a treasure of central-European culinary heritage, but this dish is one of a select few that represents, to me, the food of her homeland. In Germany, the land of my own ancestors, this dish is known as Krautwickel, and is quite popular when the cabbage somes in season in August. It is found in various forms throughout eastern Europe and even into the Middle East, where ground lamb, herbs, and spices are rolled in grape leaves.

During my wife’s childhood, the dish was made from ground beef, but considering one alternate name for these (pigs in a blanket), I think it is safe to assume that either ground pork or beef would be acceptable, according to taste and/or dietary needs. If you wish to prepare this recipe in a typical Slavic manner, serve the "pigs" with the sauce made by juices left over from simmering. No matter how it is prepared, the sauce also makes a very good topping for the traditional accompaniments, including boiled or mashed potatoes or halušky (dumpling noodles). If you would like to make halušky, simply follow the instructions here:

 
On a side note, halušky are extremely versatile; you can serve them as a side for this dish, or you can serve them plain, with butter -or with any other sauce for that matter - or with cottage cheese (and perhaps a little crumbled bacon). One of the best ways to serve halušky is with cabbage that has been braised in fried bacon bits and onions. The link above provides more details.
 
Anyway, back on topic, Wikipedia provides some background information for holubky:
 
Quote A cabbage roll (also stuffed cabbage) is a dish consisting of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. It is common to the peasant cuisines of Europe...and has also found popularity in areas of North America settled by Eastern Europeans.

The filling is traditionally based around meat, often beef, lamb or pork and is seasoned with garlic, onion and spices. Grains such as rice and barley, eggs, mushrooms and vegetables are often included in the filling as well....As only the largest leaves can be used, small pieces of cabbages are often mixed into the stuffing and sauce. As the dish originated as a way to use leftover food, other ingredients may also be used in the stuffing.

Cabbage leaves are stuffed with the filling which are then baked, simmered or steamed in a covered pot and generally eaten warm, often accompanied with a sauce. The sauce varies widely by cuisine....In Eastern Europe, tomato-based sauces or plain sour cream are typical....

Fillings traditionally contain rice only, since the typical peasant diet was largely vegetarian due to the higher cost of meat. Occasionally, the rice filling is mixed with small amounts of meat. Other recipes call for cooked kasha and chopped wild mushrooms....The finished rolls may be simmered in thinned tomato juice, beef stock [or] vegetable stock....
 
Wiki also provides an interesting anecdote from poland regarding this dish.
 
Quote There is an unverified story or myth that the Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland Casimir IV Jagiellon fed his army with gołąbki before a key battle of the Thirteen Years' War outside of Marienburg Castle (Malbork) against the Teutonic Order around 1465. Polish rumor has it, that victory over the Teutonic Order was partially credited to strength of the hearty meal of gołąbki given to the allied Polish and Prussian troops. The castle was not conquered, though, but turned over later.
 
this is honest, peasant, immigrant food, brought over from one of the most interesting regions of europe. here are the many names that Wiki provides for this dish, along with their origins. most interesting is how universal this concept is, as is demonstrated by the presence of variations as far away as china and azerebaijan - even chile:
 
Quote
 
  • Töltött káposzta - Hungary[2]
  • Balandėliai (little pigeons) - Lithuania
  • Golubtsy - Russia
  • Gołąbki (little pigeons) - Poland
  • Halubcy - Belarus
  • Holishkes - Ashkenazi Jewish
  • Chou farci - France
  • Holúbky - Czech Republic and Slovakia
  • Holubtsi - Ukraine
  • Kåldolmar - Sweden
  • Kaalikääryle - Finland
  • Сарма/Sarma - Serbia
  • Sarma or Arambašići - Croatia
  • Kohlroulade and Krautwickel - Germany and Austria
  • Lahana dolması - Turkey
  • Lahanodolmades (Λαχανοντολμάδες) - Greece
  • Malfoof - Jordan, Palestinian territories, Syria and Lebanon
  • Rouru kyabetsu (ロールキャベツ) - Japan
  • Sarma - the Balkans and Turkey
  • Zeleva Surma (Cabbage Sarma) - Bulgaria
  • Sarmale - Romania
  • 白菜卷 - China
  • Niños Envueltos - Chile
  • Kələm dolması - Azerbaijan
 
my wife's family emigrated from what is now slovakia circa 1919 and brought this tradition with them when they settled in sand coulee, which is an area slightly southeast of great falls and known for its coal mining operations during the first half of the 20th century. interestingly, there is also a substantial czech/slovak population in the coal mining country of pennsylvania, and it is not surprising to find extended relations in both areas, widespread as they are. in the early days, meat was probably not as scarce as it was in the peasant days back in europe, but it was still expensive, and hamburger surely became a cheap staple for cabbage rolls. rice, available at local groceries and "the company store" probably replaced barley and kasha, which i am assuming would have been more common "back home." likewise, canned tomatoes, tomato juice and ketchup eventually replaced the homemade, from-scratch sauces in some households as convenience outpaced "the old ways." having said that, both tomatoes and cabbage are easily grown in these areas, and the use of home-canned ingredients must have been very common.
 
holúbky, much like the polish counterpart, gołąbki, translates to something akin to "little pigeons;" alternately, they are known as "plnená kapusta," which translates to "stuffed cabbage," a more descriptive - if less illustrative - moniker. where my wife comes from, the local name for them is "pigs in a blanket," giving homage, i believe, to the ground or minced pork that they were probably originally made with when the area was being settled.
 
most of the people in the sand coulee area are of slovak and czech descent and these little packages of goodness are as common as pizza in new york, filet gumbo in lousiana or cabrito in texas. in fact, on any given saturday or sunday you can see a hand-lettered sign in the window of any of the bars in one of the tiny coal mining towns of sand coulee (tracy, sand coulee, centerville or stockett) reading something like, "pigs in a blanket, 3.50$/plate, get em while they last." usually, they are sold out before the second game starts.
 
my wife has many fond family memories of making and eating "pigs" with her grandmother, and whenever we eat this dish at home, i am reminded of how lucky i am to be married into a family with such an interesting heritage.
 
alright, here we go ~

as with most peasant/immigrant foods, "pigs" are largely a product of what is available in the pantry, at the local grocery, or what is grown in the garden in season. there are many regional and traditional ways to prepare them, even within the same areas.

Here's a shopping list for how we make holúbky:

  • 1 large head of cabbage (two smaller heads can be used)
  • 4 lbs lean ground meat. this can be beef, pork, lamb, venison or anything you want. some folks even use fish. beef is what we use most commonly.
  • 2 medium onions or 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, diced fine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • rice (minute-style rice is fine, but you can use any rice)
  • 1 "large" (not huge) can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 large jar of sauerkraut
  • Optional - mushrooms
  • Optional - marjoram to taste
  • Optional - paprika to taste
  • Optional - tomato juice
  • Optional - sour cream for the sauce
  • Optional - catsup for topping
 

this will make enough to feed your family and provide lunches for several days; no worries - they get better as time pases!

i will also mention a few variations and alternatives thoughout this post. feel free to try them.

all methods start with a head of cabbage, parboiled for a few minutes to work the leaves loose:

once all the leaves are loose, the ingredients are assembled. we like to use some lawry's and alpine touch for seasoning, but salt and pepper would work just as well. feel free to use your favorite seasoning:

whoops! forgot to get the tomatoes!

i like to saute the onions and garlic a few minutes before mixing them with the burger, making sure to cool them before using tehm in the recipe. this cooks them and gives the final product a more "finished" flavor in my opinion, but it is not absolutely necessary. Also, I am a big fan of adding chopped mushrooms to the mixture; these can also, if you wish, be sauteed with the onions and garlic, but it is not necessary.

anyway, mix the onions, garlic, mushrooms (if you use them) and salt/pepper into the burger, distributing the seasonings throughout the meat; then add in some rice to the mixture.

how much rice, you ask? that's a pretty good question. you want it to be evenly distributed throught the meat, and you want it to not take over the whole mixture either. it's hard to give an exact amount, but you're going for a consistency that is easily molded and not too wet or too dry. experience is probably the best teacher here. start with a couple of cups for 4 pounds of burger, and add more if you think it is necessary. the moisture from cooking will fluff up the rice very well.

once the filling ingredients are thoroughly mixed, lay out a cabbage leaf:

note: for larger leaves, cut the ribs out with a V-cut. with really large leaves, cut them in half the long way (while de-ribbing).

take a handful of the meat mixture and basically squeeze gently it in your fist to shape it, then lay it on the leaf:

then roll the leaf up from base to tip, tucking the ends in (which didn't quite happen here) to make a nice little compact package:

lay the rolls out in a roasting pan or baking dish. some people like to put them in a stockpot or other large pot and cook them on the stovetop, and i like them that way; but these are going to be baked in the oven, which is just as good. for the stovetop method, you're going to have several layers, but for the oven method, probably only two, maybe three. here's the first layer:

see why the Slovak name for them (holúbky) translates to "little pigeons?"

with each layer, top the pigs with some sauerkraut (scraps of extra cabbage leaves can also be added):

and also top each layer with diced tomatoes:

i have some home-canned crushed tomatoes from our garden, and i think they would have been very good with this, but they did not get used this time around. also, some folks like to top each layer with some tomato sauce and/or tomatoe juice for a little extra moisture and tomato flavor. i prefer them this way, but mrs. tas insists that no sauce or juice is needed, because the "pigs" will make their own!

here's the second layer of pigs:

and another layer of sauerkraut (once again, cut-up scraps from extra leaves can be added):

one final topping of diced tomatoes:

and then they are covered and put into the oven at 350. if doing on the stovetop, bring liquids to a boil and then simmer.

cooking time is subjective. if doing them on the stovetop, you want to simmer them for quite a while. large batches can simmer around 4 hours. these were in the oven for about an hour or so, and could have stayed in a little longer; 2 hours wouldn't have been unreasonable. you want the ground meat inside the pigs to be cooked through, so the best recommendation is to test a couple from the middle. the resulting moisture from the cabbage, burger etc. will keep things from burning, whether on the stovetop or in the oven. if necessary, you can add a little more water or tomato juice if things dry out, but be sure to keep the lid covered no matter how you do it, because the steam is important and you don't want the ones on the bottom to burn

i got home from work just in time for them to come out of the oven - don't they look good!:

for this meal, we prepared mashed potatoes seasoned with alpine touch, cracked black pepper and chives. mashed poatoes make a good side for this meal, as do boiled potatoes or oven-roasted potatoes.

and onto the plate they go. a person can top them (and the potatoes) with the tomatoes, sauerkraut, sauce and juices from the pan, as well as a little ketchup, if desired:

the taste is GREAT and one gets a real sense that they are eating some good, old-world peasant food. can't be beat!

thanks for looking, everyone. if you try these, let me know how you like them.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 February 2010 at 10:17
What a fantastic pictorial on some real old-world food! Very nicely done and thiose little packages look delicious. Great satisfying meal for cold weather I would say, perfect for this time of year. I can see why they would sell out quickly at the bars. They look like they would go perfectly with a large mug of beer. Thanks for sharing you rmeal and such a wonderful history of your dish!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 June 2010 at 16:16
made the holubky for supper last night and it turned out AWESOME.
 
for seasonings, i used salt, pepper and marjoram only, sauteed the onions and garlic in our cast-iron pan (and cooled them down a while in the freezer) before adding to the very lean, locally-grown burger - also added diced MUSHROOMS to the onions and garlic when i was sauteeing them, maybe half a pound, although more would have been even better.
 
for the record - 2 good-sized heads of cabbage is exactly right for 4 pounds of meat - we parboiled and peeled the leaves until they started getting small and white/yellow and cut the bigger ones in half after de-ribbing all of them. as far as how much rice we used, i still can't give an exact amount, but the best i can say is use enough until it gets to a good, stiff consistency for making into oval-shaped fillings.
 
put the holubky in the same roasting pan i used in my post above. between each layer of holubky were layers of sauerkraut, the leftover chopped cabbage and diced tomatoes. this time, i used a total of two big (28? oz) cans of diced tomatoes and 1 smaller (12 or 14 oz?) can. i then poured tomato juice (a total of 1 large can for the whole recipe) over each layer. the result was a full-to-the-brim roasting pan and all i could do was envision a week of great lunches!
 
covered the whole thing and put in the oven for three hours or so at 300 degrees while we went fishing (didn't catch anything). when we got home, the center of the mass read over 170 degrees and it was done. i served it with mashed potatoes, using the soupy stuff to top them, and WOW. results were bloody fantastic. should have taken pix but didn't think of it until it was too late - and in this case, pix of the process would have been better than a plated pic anyway. had some for lunch today ~ even better!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 October 2012 at 10:15

It is that time of year again, when dishes like this really take on a whole meaning of home, hearth and comfort on a grey day.

To that end, I'll be making these again soon, both for our own enjoyment and also to update some of the photos in the original photo; for instance, there are a couple of different options when it comes to cooking these, and I would like to illustrate that - also, that plated photo above has to go! Shocked
 
We have many regional varieties of this dish that can be found in many of the forums here at FotW - this is truly a universal and delicious meal that will never fail to make you feel as if you are visiting Grandma on a winter's day. For myself, I intend to try at least two other versions over the winter, including Hoser's gołąbki from Poland:
 
 
And a truly wonderful-looking winter's version of this dish from the Ukraine, called golubki:
 
 
Finally, if I get the chance, there is a variation from Hungary called töltött káposzta:
 
 
But the fact is that there are many other versions, from Greece, Germany, the Balkans, South Africa, Russia and even some places you wouldn't expect. The basic concept is practically universal, especially in historically-agrarian cultures, and there will surely be a version somewhere out there to your tastes.
 
If anyone does try any version of these, including this - our family reipe handed down from Slovakia - please report on results in the appropriate forum, and as always, photos and comments are encouraged!
 
Ron
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 October 2012 at 10:21
Tas,
 
STUFFED CABBAGE dear boy, this is lovely.
 
I had posted a wonderful Greek one when I first joined FOTW ... Shall have to try your family dish when I have more time, and I am not in editorial deadline.
 
I prepare mine in a simple Marinara - Tomato Sauce ... Yum ...
 
Thanks for posting,
Margi.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 October 2012 at 12:55
Well, Margi - I can guarantee results with this recipe here, if you want to try it - it is GRANDMA APPROVED! Thumbs Up
 
It is exactly these kinds of frugal, satisfying, family-steeped dishes that reflect my primary point-of-view, and I truly enjoy it when someone tries something like this and says, "That was really good!"
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Farmer's Wife Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 November 2012 at 09:19
I am SO making this for dinner tonight.  Clap
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 November 2012 at 09:35
Tas,
 
One day, I shall tackle some of your´s and Mrs. Tas.´s Grandmother approved pastoral dishes ... I know it is not difficult, just wrapping is laborious ... worth the labor, I know !!!
 
Have nice wkend.
Margi.  
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 November 2012 at 13:54
TFW, This is perfect stuff for the weather we're having today. It's pretty self-explanatory, but let me know if you have any questions - and, of course, take a picture or three!
 
 
 
 
Margi - The great thing about this one is that it should be pretty compatible with your dietary habits ~ I am pretty sure you will love it ~
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 November 2012 at 14:50
Tas. Ur cabbage and mine have alot of similarities. The kraut is not in my version howver this can be employed and I always prepare homemade tomato sauce. I have to make list of all ingred. of urs and mine and then I am able to organize the visual. They are fairly similar except on spices too. The list...    i use bulgar wheat and ur recipe calls for Rice.  I normally employ beef.   I also simmer in chickenstock or home made tomato sauce. So question is how do we adopt the greek recipe to ur family recipe which i believe was changed with prodcts to sub. Ketchup for eg. I use homemade tomato sauce. Any ideas ?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 November 2012 at 15:28
tomato sauce would be a great substitute ~ i'm doing that today, along with a little sour cream. the bulgar should work well, too. i got some kasha and am going to try that today, rather than rice. ours will be all-beef today.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 November 2012 at 16:32
Tas. I usually use all beef too. My key questions are the spice profile and incorporating the sauerkraut. Look forward to ur report and reply.   thanx in advance. I also realize u bake urs like i do and ur sauerkraut is a layer as tomato sauce or tomatoes are .   Cool.    Mar
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 November 2012 at 18:28
the spice profile for these is very humble (cocina povera! Wink) we usually just use salt and pepper, with onions and often garlic in the meat mixture. today, i sauteed the onions and garlic with finely-diced mushrooms, added some paprika and when everything cooled added it all to the meat and kasha with salt and pepper. other times, i just add the (finely-diced) onions and garlic raw.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 November 2012 at 14:13
We recently made these again, and they simply never get old ~ here are a few photos and notes.
 
This time around, I wanted to "bring the dish home" a little bit, and try to put a few twists in that would hopefully be something more like they were made in "the old country." With that goal in mind, I made a couple of substitutions and additions to the time-honoured recipe that my wife's grandmother would use, and also added paprika to the meat mixture, since the region where the family is from was part of the Hungarian Empire until very recently, and paprika was a much-used spice there.
 
The first change I made was to add chopped mushrooms to the mix; one of the memories I remember the Beautiful Mrs. Tas speaking of is how her grandmother would go "mushroom hunting" in the area, searching up into the wooded draws and hollows where they lived. It seemed to me that chopped mushrooms would be a natural ingredient here, especially considering that most peasant households in central and eastern Europe were very "meat poor."
 
I also decided to employ kasha as a filler and binder for the meat mixture, rather than the customary rice. Both grains are and were common there, but kasha is the one that I see most in reference to "the old recipes." To prepare the kasha for the dish, I soaked it in hot water for around 15 minutes to soften it up, and used the resulting "kasha water" as part of the braising liquids when simmering the holubky.
 
With these changes, I decided to call this dish holúbky s hubami a kaše, which is simply "holubky with mushrooms and kasha."
 
Here we are, with some ingredients for this experimental preparation:
 
 
Left to right, behind the mushrooms: chopped onion, kasha soaking in hot water (note the rusty colour of the kasha water, which is evidently characteristic) and canned, whole tomatoes from the garden; I also had a few fresh "last tomatoes" from this year's garden, and chopped them up to use in this dish.
 
Preparation was fairly easy, as always; the first thing I did was to briefly saute the onions and mushrooms, in order to get a little flavour into the dish, and remove any "raw" tastes from the final product:
 
 
When the onions began to caramelise, I also added some finely-diced garlic:
 
 
After letting the garlic heat up a bit and sweat out some flavour, but before it began to turn brown, I removed the pan from the heat and gave the mixture a healthy dose of paprika, maybe 2 tablepoons. I then stirred the paprika into the mixture as the residual heat begain to melt it and darken the spice, releasing a wonderful aroma:
 
 
Then, the pan went immediately to the freezer to sit on a couple of dishtowels and cool off, so that the hot onions and mushrooms would not begin cooking the meat when they were added to the filling.
 
At about this same time, I dropped a head of cabbage into a pot of simmering, lightly-salted water in order to parboil the leaves for a few minutes and loosen them so that they could be removed and stuffed as demonstrated in the opening post:
 
 
We find that it helps to core the cabbage:
 
 
But that is not a strictly-necessary step.
 
By the time the leaves were stripped, the onion and mushroom mixture had cooled enough to assemble the meat filling. Nothing complicated here, just toss the contents of the pan onto the meat:
 
 
And then mix everything together thoroughly:
 
 
I applied gentle application of a hand-held potato masher, and achieved good results using this method.
 
After seasoning to taste with a little marjoram, salt and pepper, I thoroughly incorporated the kasha into the filling:
 
 
I then proceeded to make the holubky as outlined in the opening post, layering them in my enameled cast iron Dutch oven. In between each layer of cabbage rolls, I put a layer of sauerkraut,  tomatoes and chopped-up "ends and pieces" of cabbage leaves. When I ran out of filling and cabbage leaves, I covered the casserole and put into the oven at 350 degrees, using the kasha water and juice from the canned tomatoes as a braising liquid.
 
I had planned on getting a couple of plated pictures, as well as a photo or two of the holubky cut open, but when supper was ready, everyone around me dug in and made a huge mess of things, so I decided "maybe next time."
 
Results were great! I enjoyed this method very, very much. The kasha softened up to perfection as it simmered in the casserole and soaked up nearly all of the cooking liquids, adding a unique flavour and velvety texture to the filling and leaving behind a rich, flavourful sauce from the liquids, which was spooned over the top of the holubky and the boiled potatoes that we served with them. The mushrooms and paprika also fit in very well with the dish, and the end result was special indeed.
 
The Beautiful Mrs. Tas was horrified at what I did to her "pigs in a blanket," and seemed to think that the alterations I made turned them into a whole other dish entirely; but even she had to admit, they tasted great ~ they just weren't HER GRANDMA'S pigs....Shocked
 
Normally we have some leftovers for lunch the next day, and that was the case this time as well. Throughout the weekend, we had them for lunch and, like many similar dishes, they got even better as time passed.
 
With that, I declare my experiment a success, and would enthusiastically recommend that you consider giving it a try.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 April 2013 at 09:24
We made these for supper last night, and once again they were excellent - I really do encourage everyone to give them a try.
 
I didn't really deviate from the procedures above; we wanted extras for lunch during the coming week, so I made quite a batch, starting with 2 heads of cabbage, 2 pounds of ground beef and 1 pound of ground pork. For the sake of keeping a record, here's how it went down:
 
I sauteed 2 medium onions, chopped fine, in a couple of tablespoons of butter - I then added half a dozen garlic cloves, crushed and minced, then added most of a pound of mushrooms, chopped. When I got some good colour on everything, but not too much, I removed the mixture from the heat and added about 2 tablespoons of paprika to the pan, stirring it in while it mixed with the little bit of butter and darkened the mix. I then set that aside to cool while we blanched the cabbage heads in order to strip the leaves; meanwhile, I started mixing the meat, as well.
 
For the meat, I used a potato masher to thoroughly mix the two meats together, then added salt, pepper and marjoram to taste. When it comes to herbs and spices for this dish, I'm finding more and more that it is good to rely less on measurements, and go more by how the meat smells when I add the herbs and spices. 
 
Once it seemed about right, I added the onion/garlic/mushroom mixture and incorporated it into the ground meat. Finally, I added the grain (in this case, instant brown rice); I never know how much to add - it seems inadequate to say "until it is right," but that's about the best answer there is. Off the top of my head, half a cup of grain per poud of meat is probably a good place to start, but chances are that a little more will be added.
 
Once the rice was thoroughly mixed into the filling, it was "right" as far as consistency goes, so I tweaked the seasoning just a bit until it "smelled right," and then got down to business. I rolled out balls of the meat mixture in preparation for filling them into the cabbage leaves; the sizes varied a little from meatball-to-meatball, since the cabbage leaves also varied in size. but they probably ranged in size from 1.5 to 2 inches in diamtre. I ended up with 46 meatballs, which seemed like a lot, but when you're dividing them among 6 people with lunches for the next few days, they go quickly!
 
By the time I was done rolling out the meatballs, all of the usable leaves had been stripped from the heads of cabbage, with a few left over that were chopped up to be added to the pot. For this preparation, I was cooking them in the oven, rather than on the stovetop, so there was no need to line with bottom of the pot with a few extra cabbage leaves. 
 
I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and commenced filling my Tramontina casserole with some Slovak magic. Tomatoes are absolutely not in season right now, so I began with two small cans of tomato sauce at the bottom of the casserole; then, the Beautiful Mrs. Tas and I rolled the meatballs into the cabbage leaves, flattening them (the meatballs) a little from balls into more of a cylindrical shape as we went - as if we took some of the filling and closed our hand around it. The ribs of the leaves were removed with a "V" cut; many of the leaves were way too big to use with one meatball, so they were cut in half before they were filled.
 
We ended up with three layers of "pigs," topping each layer with some saurkraut, chopped "extra" cabbage leaves and canned, diced tomatoes. By the time we ran out of meatballs, the Tramontina was completely full, to the brim, with a top layer of sauerkraut/cabbage/diced tomatoes as well. I put the heavy lid on and placed the casserole in the oven for about 2 hours, maybe 2.5.
 
When they were ready, we then pigged out on some delicious pigs in a blanket, with mashed potatoes on the side that were topped with the outstanding sauerkraut/cabbage/tomato sauce that resulted from the pot juices - excellent Slovak peasant eating! Mrs. Tas, true to her family tradition, also topped the pigs with ketchup; I am normally not a huge fan of ketchup, except on hotdogs or hamburgers, but in this case, I do have to agree that it is a perfect accompaniment for this dish, if one wants to use it - basically, it acts as a tangy-tart tomato sauce.
 
As we had hoped, there was enough left over for the Beautiful Mrs. Tas and I to both have lunch for most of the week; as good as they are out of the oven, they always seem better the day after - or two days after....or even three..... 
 
Great stuff! and worth a try, indeed ~
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Effigy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 July 2013 at 01:45
I just found this thread. I am plotting the fate of my budding cabbages. Three weeks from now guess what will happen to them Evil Smile 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Sepeptember 2013 at 14:42
Originally posted by Effigy Effigy wrote:

I just found this thread. I am plotting the fate of my budding cabbages. Three weeks from now guess what will happen to them Evil Smile 
 
Follow-up!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Sepeptember 2013 at 15:21
Boy am I ignorant! I thought Pigs In A Blanket was those Vienna Sausage things wrapped with crappy dough and sorta baked! Yuck!
These sound and look wonderful. And on the list they go. Have to wait a bit, til the temperature goes down a bit. Not exactly the fare for 95° days and 85° nights. But soon!
Excellent posts Tas!
And thank you for clearing my vision!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Sepeptember 2013 at 15:37
i grew up thinking the same thing, mark - we can thank grandma mary for showing is the light!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Sepeptember 2013 at 09:01
We will be making these again this weekend, per the request of The Beautiful Mrs. Tas. The process is already very well-documented, but if I do anything different or new, I will let everyone know what I did and how it was. One thing that has eluded me forever is a decent "plated photo," so I will try to get one for the pictorial.
 
This is a very cheap, very delicious and very "grandma-ish" meal - if you haven't already tried these, or one of the similar versions that can be found throughout Europe, then you are truly missing out! I hope that this pictorial inspires others to give it a try.
 
Have a great weekend, everyone!
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