Old World Cabbage Rolls from the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Dr. Darko’s grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1907. This genuine union between the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary was one of Europe’s major powers in the late 1800s and the second largest country in Europe after the Russian Empire. It was dissolved at the end of World War I. Their homeland gone, they were never able to return. This old world cabbage rolls recipe is straight from their Austra-Hungary kitchen circa 1900.
A Cooking Tradition Lives On – Old World Cabbage Rolls
Their son, Charles Darko, grew up with his mother’s recipes and cooking straight from the historic old Empire. His parents cabbage roll dish was one of his favorites. We bring you a traditional meal from the 1900 heart of Eastern Europe.
The Recipe – Old World Cabbage Rolls
The recipe’s secret step is simmering the cabbage leaves on a bed of sauerkraut.
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon each of pepper and paprika
- 1/4 cup tomato ketchup
- 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
- 1/8 teaspoon liquid hot pepper seasoning
- 1 large cabbage
- A large kettle of boiling, salted water
- 1 quart sauerkraut, well drained
- 1 pound kielbasa, cut In 1-lnch pieces
- 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
In a wide frying pan over medium heat, brown the beef, then add the onion and cook until the onion is limp. Spoon off any fat. Stir in the rice, salt, pepper, paprika, tomato ketchup, garlic, and hot pepper seasoning. Then, remove the fry pan from the heat.
Core the cabbage, separate the leaves, and cut off the thickest portion of the central rib from 16 large leaves. (You can save the remaining cabbage for other uses.) Place and soak the leaves in the large kettle of boiling, salted water just long enough to blanch and soften them, about 1 minute. Drain the leaves.
In a 4-quart casserole, make a layer of half of the sauerkraut. Place about 1/4 cup of the meat mixture at one end of each cabbage leaf, then fold the edges of the leaf over the meat, tuck in the end, and roll up the leaf. As each roll is prepared, place it on the sauerkraut, seam side down, in a single layer.
Spoon any remaining meat mixture over the cabbage rolls, then add the remaining sauerkraut, sausage, and tomato sauce. Cover and bake in a 350° oven for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the mixture is steamy throughout and flavors are well blended. Makes 8 servings.
Mr. Darko published his “Charlie’s Cabbage Rolls” recipe in Sunset magazine in 1977. The reference is below.
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Jessica Battilana writes the “Repertoire” column for the San Francisco Chronicle and is the author of Corn and co-author of several other cookbooks. Her writings have be published in Martha Stewart Living, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Gastronomica, Saveur, Sunset, and multiple editions of The Best Food Writing. She was born in Vermont and now lives in San Francisco with her wife and children.
Sunset (Desert Edition), Vol. 159, No. 3, September 1977, p. 142.