Stuffing the Cabbage

Galumpki, Halupki, whatever-you-want-to-call-itpki – this is stuffed cabbage, and it’s one of those dishes that I tried as a youngster but didn’t instantly enjoy. I put it from my mind until a co-worker brought some in and I tasted it as an adult. What a difference. I enjoyed it so much I promptly went home and made some myself. (She used bacon in hers, which gave her the edge on taste; I was just happy mine stayed together.)

The hardest part (aside from sticking my bare hands into a bowl full of raw meat, eggs, and cooked rice) was getting the leaves off of the cabbage, though once I got the hang of it, things went smoothly. (The trick, after boiling/steaming a cored cabbage head, was to use a large carving fork and hold the cabbage on that while you delicately peel the steaming leaves off one by one. When they stop coming off easily, boil/steam for a few more minutes, following this process until you’re down to the inner part where they’re too small and crumpled to use.)

There are tons of variations on this dish, which makes messing up difficult to do. Those are the kinds of recipes I enjoy most: the ones with lots of room for error. As I mentioned, my co-worker put bacon in and on top of hers – and I will try that next time. For my first attempt, I wanted to focus on technique and simplicity.

They rolled up better than I anticipated, and the recipe I used called for the tomato/vinegar/sugar mixture to be poured on top of the rolled meat packages (I guess some people mix this into the meat mixture too).

They actually turned out decent. The biggest pain was the cabbage leaves, but with a little practice that should be simpler in the future. I’ll wait until fall to try them again, however, as they feel more like a comfort food.

Besides, with all the steaming and baking and twirling a cabbage head on the end of fork, I was sweating when it was finally done. Not the sort of scene for a coming summer.

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