Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Golumpki or Golabki (Stuffed Cabbages)

In honor of my father, Louis Sojka, who passed away 12/18/2017 I decided to cook one of his favorite Polish comfort foods which he called golumpki.  His pronunciation was to pronounce the "L" as a "Y".  Phonetically it came out goy-ump'-kee or go-ump'-kee.

His version used Campbells tomato soup.  That did not sit right with me because of the high sodium and processing so over the years I have modified his original recipe a little using higher quality ingredients.  Also, when cooking, you can simmer on the stove, cook in the oven or use an Instantpot.

Did you know this is a favorite dish at Christmas-time for Polish?  I didn't either until yesterday when looking for Instantpot cooking times and saw that historical side-note. A Croatian friend gave me a cookbook that lists the Croat version as Sarma. Sarma is very similar except they pickle the cabbage head (like a mild sauerkraut) before using.


1. One cabbage head with the core removed.  I cut up into the cabbage head 2-3 inches to remove the hard white core piece.
This also helps the steam to penetrate inside the cabbage head.  Boil or steam for about 15 minutes so that the cabbage leaves can be removed and the meat mixture can be rolled up in them.  You can also pressure cook on high for 5 minutes in the Instantpot.

2.  Meat mixture (2 lbs).  Nothing is sacred here, but, I like 75% lean ground beef and then 25% ground pork. The pork can be any kind of ground sausage or bacon.  My current favorite is to use ground bacon.
3. To the meat mixture add
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 2 stalks of celery finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped or crushed
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste (smoked salt can be good)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 tspn paprika (regular or smoked)
  • Pinch of dried oregano and thyme (fresh is better if you have it)
4.  Using your hands, mix the meat mixture and all the ingredients except the cabbage together.

5.  Now start carefully removing the outer leaves of the steamed cabbage.  You will put a large meatball amount of meat mixture in the cabbage leaf and roll it up tucking in the ends like a burrito.  Place each one in the pot you are going to cook in depending on cooking method.  Le Creuset round or oval dutch ovens are nice if you will bake.  Since we will be adding a tomato based sauce I would only use enamel coated cast iron.  A stainless steel 6 quart or larger pot will work on the stovetop.  And, likewise the Instantpot 6 quart or larger is your ticket if you have one of those. The aim is to use up the cabbage and the meat mixture by adjusting how much meat goes in each cabbage leaf.  If you notice the inner leaves are not cooked enough to roll, put it back in boiling water for 5-7 minutes.  

6. Once you have put all your rolled/stuffed cabbages in the vessel of choice you will add the sauce. There are recommendations all over the place on this. Some use water only. Some make concoctions of ketchup and tomato juice.  Some use canned tomato soup.  My favorite, which is easy and tasty, is to to use 2/3 marinara (use your favorite - I like a simple organic marinara with no extra anything) and 1/3 water.  The sauce level should be just below the top layer of the golumpkis.

7. Cooking times
  • Stove top - simmer low for 2-3 hours. Check every 45 minutes and add water if it starts looking dry.
  • Oven - baked covered at 325 degrees for 2.5 hours. Check every 45 minutes and add water if it starts looking dry.
  • Instantpot (my preferred method since it is fast and very repeatable).  Cook 18 minutes on high pressure with a 15 minute natural cool down.  Then release steam.  
8. Mashed potatoes are a standard side dish.  That is really enough food.  

9. Freeze the leftovers into meal size bags.  It seems to improve over time.   

Enjoy your golabki, golumpki, stuffed cabbagess, sarma (whatever you call them)!

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