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On the Balkans, sarma, or stuffed cabbage/sauerkraut, is one of the trademark winter meals. You can easily prepare it in large quantities, freeze it, heat it up, eat three days in a row, take it skiing with you, pretty much anything. There are songs made about it. At one new year’s eve party, I saw people stuffing them inside their coat pockets “for the road”. I hope they were just drunk.

So what’s the recipe? You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg of minced meat (the ideal ratio of pork and beef is 80:20)
  • 2.5 kg of fermented cabbage (you’ll need a larger piece to use the larger leaves for stuffing, the rest can be used as a salad)
  • salt (one teaspoon or less/nothing if the cabbage is too salty already)
  • pepper (one to two teaspoons, depending on how much you like it)
  • minced paprika (optional, but if you do want to add it, I recommend the sweet version, not the spicy one)
  • 200 g of bacon (optional, but it helps a lot with the flavor)

Start with the meat. Add salt, pepper and the minced paprika if you want to. Stir it all with your hands so the spices are equally distributed and leave it to rest for a couple of minutes. During that time, you can prepare the cabbage.

Pick 15 leaves off of your cabbage, wash them under water and place the washed ones in a separate plate or bowl. Why 15? Because you’ll be making clumps of meat of about 100 g each. If you’re left with any meat, don’t worry about it. Just pick another leaf and repeat.

After washing the cabbage leaves, start main clumps of meat that are roughly the size of your first. That clump should be around 100 g so you’ll have 15 clumps altogether. Place each clump into a cabbage leaf, wrap it up and press it with your fist to elongate it. Place it vertically in you pot in which you’ll be cooking them and repeat 15 times or until you run out of meat.

Once they’re all in the pot, if you want to, place a 200 g piece of bacon in the middle. That’ll add even more flavors to your meal.

Cover the clumps with water and place them on the stove using the strongest flame until the water boils, after which you should reduce the flame to the weakest possible. If you’re using a pressure cooker, 30 min on the weakest flame should be enough. With other pots, 60 minutes at least.

If you want to, you can cook a couple of potatoes as a side dish. For salad, you can cook the remaining cabbage leftovers. Slice it into small pieces, add a bit of oil and start frying it. Add water if necessary. Or you can just eat the raw fermented cabbage. Either way, it’s great in all shapes and sizes.

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