One of the highlights of my week was the writing seminar I attended. We were given an exercise in writing involving tasting Kim chi and chocolate. I have never had any problems tasting chocolate-bring it on! Dark chocolate-the darker the better, milk chocolate with nuts without nuts I don’t care. As soon as I hear the word chocolate my taste buds start revving up just waiting for the chocolate to coat my tongue-even thinking about it is sending them into taste bud frenzy. But I digress back to the Kim chi..
Whenever I smell Kim chi it always reminds me of sauerkraut. That first whiff of something fermented and sour immediately takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen where I’m sitting on a hard wooden chair, with my legs tucked up under me, watching her make her stuffed cabbage with sauerkraut. I remember how she would scoop up just the right amount of the beef, pork and rice mixture, drop it onto the steaming cabbage leaf and so quickly and deftly roll the leaf into a perfect little bundle and place it into her black speckled baking pan. Once she had the bottom filled with the bundles she would grab bunches of her homemade sauerkraut from her yellow and white bowl and layer it onto the stuffed cabbage, pour some tomato sauce over that and start with a new layer of stuffed cabbage bundles. I can still see her small gnarled fingers moving so quickly from the steaming leaves, to the meat mixture, to the sauerkraut. I was mesmerized, and always wondered how she moved those fingers and hands so fast. She had arthritis in her fingers and when she wasn’t cooking she was massaging those tender fingers trying to rub away the stiffness and soreness. As a child I couldn’t understand how the pain could be so terrible yet there didn’t seem to be any sign of pain when she was cooking. Now, grown up, I understand. It was and is a labor of love when you become so involved in that cooking moment that you are so truly in the moment of doing something you love, for those you love, there is nothing but the moment. No pain,no challenges,no outside world. You surround yourself with the smells and foods you love while creating something special for those you love.
The black speckled enamel-baking pan is out on my counter and the smell of sauerkraut is filling my kitchen along with the sweet memories of my grandmother.
My Grandma's Halupki
3 medium heads of cabbage
2 large onions, chopped
11/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 lb lean ground pork
1/2 lb smoked ham,ground
1 1/2 cups rice (dried-if its washed 2 or 3 times and rinsed well it doesn't need to be par-boiled-season it well with salt and pepper)
3 strips of bacon,cut up or some vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic -crushed
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper or more to taste
1 teaspoon sweet paprika for the onion glazing
Paprika to taste to add to meat mixture
1 lb drained sauerkraut-reserve the juices
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup water
1 large can diced tomatoes-drained-reserving the liquid
Salt , pepper and paprika to taste
Reserved juice from the drained sauerkraut
For the tomato sauce heat the butter on medium heat,add the chopped onion and stir in the flour. Add the water, stirring well, add the tomato,salt,pepper and paprika. Once mixed add the juice from the sauerkraut and liquid from the drained tomatoes. Boil for 5 minutes. If it's too watery for your taste and you want to thicken it you can add flour as needed or add 1 can of tomato paste. Set the sauce aside while you move on to the stuffed cabbage preparation.
Stuffed Cabbage -Grandma's Halupki-Preparation
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Preparing the cabbage, click here to watch the cabbage leaf preparation
Remove core from cabbage. Place whole head in a large pot filled with boiling water to which a little vinegar has been added. Cover and cook 3 minutes, or until softened enough to pull off individual leaves. You will need at least 18 leaves.
When leaves are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to cut away the hard vein -be careful not to cut the leaves in half. Dry off leaves with a paper towel.
Chop the remaining cabbage and place it in the bottom of a baking pan or casserole dish.
Finely chop onions and glaze them in a heavy iron skillet using the sliced bacon or vegetable oil. Sprinkle the teaspoon of paprika over the onions when glazing.
Cool the glazed onions.
Mix the meat,pork,ham ,cooled onions,eggs,rice,garlic ,salt,pepper and paprika to taste -don't overmix or the meat will be tough
Place about 1/2 cup of meat mixture on each cabbage leaf. Roll away from you to encase the meat. Flip the right side of the leaf to the middle, then flip the left side then finish rolling away from you.
Place the cabbage rolls on top of the chopped cabbage in the baking pan or casserole dish. Layer with sauerkraut, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper. Pour a little tomato sauce over the layer. Repeat each layer finishing with a topping of sauerkraut and any remaining tomato sauce.
Bake for 1 hour or until cabbage is tender and meat is cooked.
Onions with Hungarian Paprika
The meat mixture before adding the onions
The sweet little stuffed rolls