Sarma (Croatian Stuffed Cabbage)

Sarma, or stuffed cabbage, is a traditional Croatian dish that I love, but only make for special occasions since I cut back on red meat (i.e. I eat it maybe once or every few months, and only organic and locally sourced, especially after reading this article).  Sarma can be made the quick no-shame way (with the Croatian seasoning mix Fant), or the long way (simmered with smoked meat, tomatoes, and sauerkraut for a few hours).

Tip: You can also use the same recipe to stuff peppers.

  • 1 head of green cabbage
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb of ground meat (preferably a mixture of pork and beef, but either work. No poultry!)
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • fresh or canned tomatoes (plum tomatoes work well)
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • sauerkraut (preferably German, though Polish will work well, too)
  • ham hock
  • smoked meat (any kind of kobasica would give a good flavor)

First, prepare the cabbage. Cut out the bottom of the stem and remove any bruised leaves. Place the whole cabbage in a large pot an fill with water. Boil until the cabbage leaves can be easily pulled off.

Meanwhile, boil the rice, drain, and put to the side.

Next, prepare the rest of the filling. If using Fant, prepare the seasoning according to the package.

Caramelize the onions in a large frying pan and then add the ground meat. Cook thoroughly and place in a bowl with the rice, egg, salt and pepper (as well as the Fant, if using).

Next, roll the meat up in the cabbage leaves. Place the sauerkraut, ham hock, some of the smoked meat and leftover cabbage pieces into the bottom of a large pot. Next, add the stuffed cabbage, placing a layer of leftover cabbage between each layer of stuffed cabbage. Add the rest of the smoked meat. Add the tomatoes, including the juice if using canned. Fill with water and add the tomato paste, paprika, and bay leaf.

Bring to a boil, then let simmer for at least one hour if using Fant, or for a few hours if not.

Eat immediately or let sit in the fridge overnight to further enhance the flavors.

Serve warm with mashed potatoes.

Enjoy!

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