Fall is a time of harvest, and if you are at my aunt's farm, Flying Coyote, it is a time of ginormous vegetables. Like this 27 pound cabbage she just gave me.
This cabbage is currently hanging out in multiple gallon sized bags in my refrigerator and fermenting in three different large pots as sauerkraut and kimchi. There will be gifts of cabbage origin foods to my friends in the future.
The cabbage first appeared in Europe roughly around 600 BC and were developed by the Greeks and then the Romans in the Mediterranean region - its ability to grow in colder climates spread its cultivation across the north of the continent and it became a central vegetable in the foods of Russia, Poland and Germany. My family, having roots that range from as far east as the Ukraine has a strong current of cabbage dishes running through it.
One of these dishes, and a great use for giant cabbage leaves, is Pigs in the Blanket. Not hotdogs wrapped in Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, but pork and beef wrapped in cabbage leaves and serves with a tomato sauerkraut sauce.
My grandmother, my aunt's mother, used to make pigs in the blanket on a frequent basis, but like many of her recipes this one was lost with her - so engaging in a giant project of making pigs in the blanket first involved some research. My aunt and I settled upon a hungarian recipe as it seemed as close to home as we could fathom - then we brought out the giant cabbage leaves.
You start by carving the heart out of the cabbage then steaming it until you can peel off its leaves without breaking them. This requires, if you have a giant cabbage, a very large pot.
Meanwhile, gather salt pork or bacon, pork, beef, onion, rice, eggs and spices. Render the fat from the bacon and add onions and garlic, then mashed tomatoes and tomato juice with black pepper, salt and bay leaves. Let the sauce simmer.
In yet another large bowl combine both of the ground meats with diced onion, diced garlic, paprika, rice, more black pepper and eggs.
Mix everything with your hands until well blended.
After this it is time to assemble the cabbage roll. Take a chunk of meat and roll it into the size of a meatball in your hand. Place this ball in the center of a cabbage leaf and flatten out the meatball until it looks like a sausage - then roll the cabbage leave around the meat.
When you have used up all of the meat and cabbage leaves it is time to put everything together in yet another very large cooking pot. Start with the sauce on the bottom of the pan, then add a layer of cabbage rolls, sprinkle the rolls with sauerkraut, then add the crispy bacon pieces, then add a couple more ladle fulls of sauce, then lay more cabbage rolls over that. Repeat until the pot is full or your run out of rolls and sauce.
Cover the whole thing with a tight lid and cook over a low flame for two and a half hours. Did I mention that you should not start this process hungry? Especially if you are making a triple batch. It is an endeavor.
No matter how tempting do not disturb the cabbage rolls while they are cooking. After the two and a half hours go by you can test one by cutting a cabbage roll in half to determine whether the rice is cooked. If they are done, serve and enjoy.
If you happen to make a triple batch like we did invite the whole neighborhood because when you freeze and reheat these they are not as good and the cabbage gets difficult to cut.
Pigs in the Blanket
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
3/4 cup long grain rice (uncooked)
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 Tbsp hungarian paprika
2 large red onions
2 large cans of whole canned tomatoes, mash with a fork
4 bay leaves
1 small package of sauerkraut (about 1 lb)
5 slices of extra thick cut bacon or salt pork
1 large whole cabbage
2 Tsp salt
2 Tsp fresh ground pepper
12 oz can of tomato juice
1 Tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp peppercorns
Follow the steps outlined above.