In the 19th century, Róza Széppataki, Hungary’s first opera diva, waxed lyrical about the stuffed cabbage served at a banquet given in her honor. In fact, she was so delighted by the dish that she even published the recipe in her memoirs. Called töltött káposzta over here, stuffed cabbage is hugely popular in Hungary. You’ll find it on most restaurant menus. It’s often served on New Year’s Day and at wedding celebrations, too. The sauerkraut, they say, is good for a hangover. So beloved is this national dish that one old Hungarian saying proclaims meat and cabbage as “the coat of arms of Hungary.”
The preparation of töltött káposzta varies according to the region and family. Every grandma has her own recipe. Sometimes, the sauerkraut is replaced by blanched cabbage leaves. In some areas, the stuffed cabbage is thickened with a roux. In Transylvania, bunches of dill are added to the pot and removed before seving.
Perfect fall food, today I’m going to cook myself some. I’ve included the recipe for you below. Róza Széppataki would approve, I’m sure. Oh, and I’m going to make myself a huge pot so that I can reheat it during the week. The Hungarians have a cute saying about that, too: “Love is not like stuffed cabbage. Once cold – it can’t be reheated.”
Töltött Káposzta (Stuffed Cabbage) from Culinaria Hungary
Ingredients: 10 oz/300 g smoked pork ribs (for meat stock); 2 1/4 lbs/1 kg sauerkraut; 8 sauercraut leaves; 1 medium onion; 1/2 cup/50 g cooked rice; 4 1/2 cups/500 g ground pork; 1/4 cup/60 g butter; 3 tbsp four; 2 tbsp mild, sweet paprika; 3/4- 1 1/4 cups/200-300 ml sour cream; salt and pepper
Directions: Rince the sauercraut under running water. Finely chop the onion. Combine the rice, ground pork, half the onion, and the salt and pepper with a little butter. Flatten the cabbage leaves, place a small amount of the meat mixture on each leaf, and roll up firmly, folding the edges under. Saute the remaining onion until translucent, and spread the sauerkraut over it. Layer the stuffed cabbage leaves on top, and cover with the remaining sauerkraut. Pour over enough meat stock (see below) to just cover the contents, and simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Make a roux from the remaining butter, flour, and paprika, and use to thicken the sauerkraut. Remove the stuffed cabbage leaves before doing this, and return them to the sauerkraut when it has been thickened. Cook for another 10 minutes. Serve hot. Accompany with sour cream.
Meat Stock: To soften the flavor of smoked meat, soak in water and boil before use in main recipe. Soak the meat for a minimum in 30 minutes and preferably several hours in cold water, which should be changed several times. Then place the meat in a saucepan, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil, and simmer until the meat has lost its strong salty taste. Finally, leave the meat to cool in the stock.
Place the ground meat mixture on the cabbage leaves.
Roll the leaf up firmly, folding over the ends of the leaves.