"Sarmi" is a popular Bulgarian dish, which stands for sauerkraut rolls prepared as a vegetarian dish (stuffed with chopped onion, rice and spices and served traditionally on Christmas Eve) or the other popular variety, for the meat lovers (stuffed with onion, minced meat, little rice and spices). The recipe I share with you today is called "Tsarski sarmi", which mean sauerkraut rolls for the King. The reason for that - they are prepared with chopped meat insted of minced meat and you can feel better the taste of the meat. There is leek instead of onion, which adds a slightly sweet taste to the dish and matches so well with the pork. No rice, no onion, just some crushed dry peppers - hot if you like the sweet taste and sweet if you do not. So this is a dish for special occasions. Bulgarian sauerkraut is not sweet and shredded, as it is in Germany and some Central-European countries - the whole heads of cabbages are prepared without any additional flavours and we enjoy the sour taste of the cabbage.
Many families still prepare homemade sauerkraut in Bulgaria, but this is a long and hard process which requires a lot of patience and results depend a lot on the quality of the cabbage, on the temperature in the place where the fermentation takes place and of course on the skills of the housekeeper. The good thing is, that these days there are lots of vendors who sell heads of sauerkraut cabbage in plastic bags on every farmer's market, so I can enjoy the tasty Bulgarian sarmi without making all that efforts.
Ingredients for 16 sarmi:
- 1 kg (2 lb) pork meat from the shoulder
- 8 sauerkraut cabbage leaves
- 2 stalks of leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped fine
- 5 dry hot peppers, chopped fine
- 6 Tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 Tbsp sweet paprika pepper
- 1 cup sauerkraut juice
- 1 Tbsp dry savory
- 3 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
Prepare stuffing. Heat up 3 Tablespoons oil in a pan and add the chopped leek. Sautee until softened (about 5 minutes), turn off the heat and add the meat, the chopped dry peppers and the spices. Stir and let mixture cool for 15 minutes.
Peel leaves and roll. Carefully peel the leaves from the sauerkraut head and remove the hard core in the middle of every one. Devide each leaf into two - so you will get 16 pieces from your initial 8 whole leaves. Put one leaf onto a cutting board and place 2 Tbsp of the stuffing onto it. Roll and wrap tight. Chop two leaves and put on the bottom of a clay pot and arrange sauerkraut rolls next to each other. Heat the remaining 3 Tbsp oil in the pan, add the paprica powder, stir for half a minute and pour over the rools. Add the sauerkraut juice to the pot, cover with a lid and cook in a preheated oven (200 C/ 400 F) for 1 1/2 hours. Serve hot.
Happy New Year!