Considered a comfort food, the Serbs traditionally prepare sarama, or stuffed cabbage rolls to be served family-style for special celebratory occasions like their slava, during Christmas, or Pascha (Easter), weddings, graduations or even solemn occasions like a wake or funeral.
Czechs and Slovaks have a similar dish they call holubky, and the Polish people refer to them as golabki, but other than a few variations in cooking method and the sauce or broth they’re cooked in, all of these dishes have the same basic ingredients: ground meat and rice or barley stuffed into a cabbage leaf, then boiled to perfection in a tomato base. Some people use the leaves of imported or homemade heads of brined (soured) cabbage when making their sarma, and this is the traditional method that Georgie’s Custom Catering uses too, as well as a few other tricks of the trade, which earned Georgie the title of:
“Best Sarma in the Twin Ports Region“!
The Serbian community in Minnesota and Wisconsin especially love sarma during the colder celebratory seasons since it’s so warming and comforting, but I was recently reminded just how this comfort food can bring family and friends together anytime of year when it was recently shared with friends and family at a funeral commemorating the life of another dearly departed friend who loved Georgie’s sarms, too.
So, with more inevitable family gatherings and celebrations coming this summer – graduations, weddings, etc., I thought it would be fun to share a few basics about making your own sarma… but sorry… there will be no trade secrets, and no special ingredients revealed here for Georgie’s special recipe. If you’d like to get some of her winning-recipe sarma for your next event you’ll want to give her a call to put in your order now. It takes Georgie about 24-48hrs to prepare a crazy mouth-watering roaster full, so they do require a minimum 3-5 business day notice in most cases (maybe more during busy holiday seasons).
Check out one simple sarma recipe below:
Simple Sarma Recipe
So, here are the main ingredients & directions you're going to need to make approx 12 sarma (depending on size of cabbage leaves):
- 1- 2 large head of cabbage = Georgie prefers soured cabbage leaves
- 1lb ground beef
- 1/2lb ground pork (or lamb)
- 1 cup white rice (not instant or quick cook)
- 1-2 jars of sauerkraut (32oz jars)
- lb spiral cut ham
- 1 jar of tomato juice (2qt)
- Fresh garlic (6-8 peeled cloves)
- 1 cup minced onion
methodPrep Time: 20-30 minutes
Cook Time: 3-4 hours (depending on leaves)
If you're using "fresh" cabbage leaves you'll want to steam the cabbage until the outer leaves are limp. Pull off 12 nice size leafs to use in the rolls.
Using a small pairing knife, remove the thicker/tougher vein portion of the cabbage leaf without splitting the leaf into two or damaging the leaf.
Line the bottom of a crockpot or roaster with some of the cabbage leaves and bit of the tomato juice.
Next, mix your ground meat, rice, and onion together. Then, using a normal tablespoon, spoon two scoops of the mixture to the center of your cabbage leaf. Fold the thicker part of the leaf over first, then the sides of the cabbage, then roll the cabbage the rest of the way over until the mixture is completely encased.
Place the first roll in your crock or roaster and continue the process until the meat is gone.
Next tuck in strips of your ham between the rows of the cabbage rolls, strategically place your garlic cloves throughout, and then pour the juice over your bundles of cabbage rolls.
Heat your oven or roaster to 425 degrees and watch for the juice to begin to boil.
Once the juice begins to boil, cover the rolls with your jars of sauerkraut, and reduce the heat to 300 degrees.
Cook for approximately 3.5-4 more hours and then let sit for about 20 minutes before serving.