Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Töltött Káposzta)
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Winter is the season for hearty Hungarian dishes. Cabbage is a favorite winter food that can be prepared in many delicious ways. Hungarian stuffed cabbage rolls are one of the most popular classics and it usually makes the Christmas and New Year’s Eve menus in most homes. Preparation varies according to region and family, people prepare them not only on the stovetop, but also in the oven. Stuffed cabbage rolls come in many variations, the filling can be ground beef, pork, the sauce can be plain or tomato based and adding smoked meat and/or sausage will only enhance the flavor. It is even better reheated.
What Are Stuffed Cabbage Rolls?
True to their name, stuffed cabbage rolls are a dish of Eastern European origin, little bundles of cabbage leaves that have been stuffed and cooked with a mixture of ground meat (beef /pork), onions, paprika, rice, garlic and egg. They are typically cooked with sauerkraut and served with sour cream.
How to Make Stuffed Cabbage Rolls?
This recipe has several steps and seems complicated, but it is not so much and totally do-able, and worth it!
Traditionally, Hungarian stuffed cabbage rolls are made with a pickled or fermented whole head of cabbage, which tastes like shredded sauerkraut, already soft and easy to work with. I know that it is not available in North America, and it is absolutely OK if you just boil the whole cabbage head by putting it in a large pot, and then take the leaves off.
Once the cabbage leaves are softened, stuff them with a mixture of minced meat, uncooked rice, eggs, onion, garlic, paprika, ground black pepper, salt, and roll them up into tight little packages.
How to Season your Cabbage Rolls?
This dish tastes best with sweet Hungarian paprika, I do not use smoked or spicy paprika at all. You can make your dish spicy once you serve it.
Note: paprika can go flat if it’s old. Make sure you taste test your paprika before cooking with it in this recipe. Paprika, as it gets older, will lose its aroma and become less pungent. If your paprika doesn’t have a strong flavor or has no smell, it’s no longer good. Store your paprika in an airtight container in a cool, dark spot, either in a spice drawer or the refrigerator.
Also, make sure you do not burn your paprika, or it becomes bitter.
Another essential ingredient is the ground caraway seed.
Can I Make Ahead and Freeze Cabbage Rolls?
You can certainly make ahead and freeze the stuffed cabbage rolls together with the sauerkraut, I always freeze them once they are cooked. First I cool them in the refrigerator and then freeze in covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags.