Töltött Káposzta (Stuffed Cabbage)
(Pronunciation: Tull-toet Kah-po-stuh)
This is a Hungarian stuffed cabbage dish with literally thousands of recipes and variations. Pretty much every Hungarian family has their own recipe which they keep secret and pass down to their offspring as if it were an heirloom. But guess what, my mother doesn’t have a recipe. My grandmother never gave it to her. So I pretty much had to figure out how to make this thing myself, and you know what? I only ever made this once, but I already believe I have the greatest recipe in the world, and I’m going to give it to you. (´･ω･`)
Now I’m going to be honest, I was kind of scared of making this, because first of all I never worked with cabbage before, and second of all if I screwed up I’d have to buy another package of ground meat, and it’s not a usual item on my shopping list. But thankfully, the cabbage rolls did not only manage to hold their shape in the pot while cooking, but they also came out SUPPPERRR TASTY!!! ☆*:.｡. o(≧▽≦)o .｡.:*☆
So don’t be scared of trying this, if you read my notes and understand what exactly makes the cabbage rolls pop/fall apart, you should be able to prevent that from happening on your first try, like I did. (´･ω･`)
Ingredients (makes 4 dinner servings, so 8 large rolls, or 16 small rolls? It really depends on the size of the cabbage leaves.)
500g ground beef or pork, or a combination
1 cup long grain rice
2 brown onions (one for the bottom, one for the stuffing)
1 cabbage head (there will be some left)
1 jar of sauerkraut (1L or so)
1 tbsp lard (to cook onion at the bottom of the saucepan)
2 tbsp paprika (one for the bottom, one for the top)
2 tsp of salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 garlic cloves
-1. Begin by freezing your cabbage head 48 hours ahead of time before making the rolls.
0. 24 hours later, place it in the fridge to defrost for another 24 hours. Place it on a tray; it will release a lot of water.
1. Take your cabbage out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for a little while while you prepare the filling.
2. Finely dice one onion and throw it into a large pot with some lard. Cook the onion on medium-high with a tablespoon of paprika until the paprika has fused with the onion. This just adds a bit of the “cooked onion flavour” into the water, as if you were making a stock.
3. Finely dice another onion and mince the garlic cloves. Toss them into a bowl with your ground meat and rice, then add your salt/pepper. You can’t really taste and adjust when dealing with raw meat, so try to stick to the measurements I provided or do what some Malaysian woman refers to as “agak-agak”.
4. Crack in an egg and give that filling a nice beating with your hands, aka mix it thoroughly until everything is all mushed together!
5. Your cabbage leaves should be ready for wrapping at this point. Cut off the thick stems from the cabbage leaves before placing the filling in the centre of the leaf in a line (as opposed to a chunk, since when you roll them you want them to have a bit of a cylinder shape). Try to use the smaller leaves that are closer to the middle, wrap up small portions of the meat filling making sure to start by tucking in the sides before rolling. You want them firmly wrapped, but not too tight, or else they’ll pop when the rice cooks.
6. Finish wrapping until you run out of cabbage, or meat filling. If you have leftover meat filling, you can roll it into meatballs and make fasírt, which is the Hungarian word for meatballs. And if you have any leftover cabbage, you can either eat it as a snack or throw it out, because cabbage is dirt cheap~!!!
7. At this point you can preheat your oven to 350F, strain your sauerkraut, squeeze out a bit of the liquid and mix it up with the onions and lard.
8. Once you’ve got a nice bedding on the bottom of the pot, start carefully placing your cabbage rolls into the pot. Don’t cram them in there, leave some space in between them and fill up the gaps with some more sauerkraut. This leaves them with the ability to expand a little without bursting, since sauerkraut is pretty soft.
9. Once all your cabbage rolls are in the pot, cover the top with sauerkraut and a nice sprinkle of paprika.
10. Carefully pour water down the side of the pot until the water just reaches the top of the cabbage rolls. Place an oven-safe plate on top of the rolls so that they’ll keep their shape as they cook.
11. Bring the pot onto the stove starting on high-heat, and once you’ve hit that boil, take it off the stove and place it into the oven for 2 hours or so.
12. 2 hours later, remove the pot from the oven, and if you’re patient just let it sit for awhile, but if you’re inpatient like me, remove the top sauerkraut layer like it’s wrapping paper on Christmas morning and discover what lays beneath. You should really let these sit for a bit before eating though, as they’ll taste much better once they cool.
13. Serve alongside the sauerkraut as a side, or place them on a nice loaf of bread and eat it as a full meal for dinner. Top with sour cream and enjoy!
If it’s your first time making cabbage rolls, it’s a good idea to look at video references because describing the wrapping/cooking/pot setup process is a tad difficult via text; it’s really something that requires a visual.
Here are some video references:
A good rolling technique.
A good visual reference for a Hungarianish pot setup.
Chef John gives some advice on pot setup, for dolmas, but the same rules still apply. (Just replace grape leaves with cabbage/sauerkraut)
Good luck, and jó étvágyat~! (´･ω･`)
(toltott, toltot, tultut, kaposzta, kaposta)