Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage - "Szabolcsi töltött káposzta"

hungarian stuffed cabbage

 🍴  Servings: 4

🥣 Category: Pork

💪 Difficulty Level: 4/5 

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Stuffed cabbage is one of those dishes that varies greatly across Hungary, with each region adding, subtracting, and tweaking its own version. It is a popular dish during the winter months, and can usually be found on menus around the holidays. Now you can get to know the original recipe of the most traditional “Szabolcsi” stuffed cabbage. Szabolcs is one of Hungary’s eastern regions, formerly the name of one of its counties.

The history of the Hungarian stuffed cabbage

In Hungary, there are many different types of stuffed cabbage, but Szabolcsi is the only one! Stuffed cabbage only became popular in the Balkans and Hungary in the 18th century, thanks to Turkish influence. Its first Hungarian description appeared in the Tótfalus cookbook in 1695. From the time of the Hungarian Turks until around 1750, the original, authentic, archived Szabolcsi stuffed cabbage was made from mutton. It has a serious history in Hungarian history. Mutton was constantly replaced by mangalica pork meat, which is still widely consumed today. Domesticated pig meat became popular around eighty to one hundred years ago.

What distinguishes stuffed cabbage as "Szabolcsi"?

The filling calls for larger-grained corn grits, which accounts for roughly one-third of the meat, if not half. About a third of the meats are smoked Mangalica ham and bacon. Meat, bacon and ham should be chopped into small pieces with a knife. Meat grinders didn’t exist long ago, and chopped ham and bacon taste completely different! Finally, tomato juice (made from homemade, local, sweet tomato varieties like oxheart tomatoes) is poured into the food 5-15 minutes before it is ready.

Additional characteristics

The Hungarian stuffed cabbage – Szabolcsi cabbage – is eaten with a spoon, from a deep plate. When served on a deep plate, some people eat it with the cooking juice, while others eat it with more canned tomato juice. It can also be served with sour cream or both sour cream and tomato juice. The original recipe contains no garlic, dill, marjoram, hot pepper, eggs, sugar, minced meat, rice, sauerkraut, bay leaves, unusually sour tomatoes, industrially produced concentrated tomatoes. Only homemade tomato juice.

Ingredients of Hungarian stuffed cabbage:

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 3 tbsp of white vinegar
  • 100 g smoked bacon
  • 1 medium onion
  • 100 g smoked ham
  • 150 g corn grits
  • 300 g minced pork butt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 2 cups of tomato juice

Steps for making Hungarian stuffed cabbage:

  1. Remove the stalk of the cabbage with circular cuts. Cook the cabbage over medium heat in vinegar water.
  2. While cooking, slowly the cabbage leaves are separating from the stalk. Cook a little, remove and set aside them.
  3. Cut the bacon into small cubes. Melt it and fry until crispy. Add the finely chopped onion and sauté until golden. Remove from heat and let cool. Add the finely diced bacon, grits, spices and ground pork. Mix to a homogeneous mass.
  4. Cut the cooled cabbage leaves in half and remove the leaf veins. Fill the leaves with about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Form small, pretty rolls and press them together on both sides with a finger.
  5. Cut the remaining cabbage pieces into strips.
  6. Layer the ingredients in a cast iron pot: half of the cut cabbage, half of the stuffed cabbage and the same again.
  7. Add tomato juice and water until everything is covered. Season with salt and cook covered over low heat for about 90 minutes.
  8. Serve the Hungarian stuffed cabbage with its cabbage strips and sauce. Enjoy your meal!

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