These sarma croatian cabbages rolls are a huge part of my growing up. My Croatian mom made them all the time! Mom’s recipe is the best!
The word ‘sarma’ is of Turkish derivative and it means to wrap. So you take leaves be they cabbage, chard, kale or another and use some type of filling, usually ground meat and other ingredients, and wrap in the leaf then cook.
Cabbage rolls! Growing up my Croatian Mom used to make these in huge batches because we’d eat on them for days. Yes, they get better as they hang out overnight much like pasta sauce and soups! I’d watch as Mom worked on the kitchen table deftly rolling the meat mixture in the wilted cabbage leaves then securing expertly with a toothpick~~it was if she was performing surgery as she would ‘sew’ together the parts of the leaf so as to keep the meat tightly bound. In Croatian they’re known as ‘Sarma’, so in memory of my Mom they become ‘sarma croatian cabbage rolls.’
Healthy Cabbage Rolls
First of all cabbage rolls essentially are healthy. But I always try to take my Mom’s recipes and make them healthier. So that’s what these are, healthy cabbage rolls. Yet, they are still your classic cabbage rolls.
Classic Cabbage Rolls
Classic cabbage rolls are an anomaly. Really is there one recipe that makes it classic.
Different ethnic groups and countries, the Croatians, Turks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Greeks, all claim to have ‘invented’ the stuffed cabbage roll. Romania and Croatia call it sarma. Bulgaria calls it ‘sarmi’ and the Greeks call it ‘sarmalaki’. So go figure. It really doesn’t matter who gets the bragging rights. All agree that the cabbage roll is fine eating!
Of course cabbage is a hearty vegetable, and it’s got lots of uses from cole slaw to fried cabbage and more. But, the wonderful full leaves of cabbage make it perfect for stuffing and rolling. Stuffed cabbage surely isn’t one of my quick and easy recipes, however. It takes time, lots of time, especially if it’s your first go at it.
Mom used regular cabbage for her sarma. I really don’t think we had Savoy cabbage available back in those mountains of Appalachia, plus the regular cabbage was used back in the old country. But, I sometimes prefer to use Savoy cabbage. It’s easier to peel form the heads, more pliable, and seems to hold together better for me. Plus, I think the crinkley nature of the leaves is just really pretty. And, ‘pretty eating’ is part of making every day a tad bit more luxurious!
Cabbage Rolls in Oven
I suppose the biggest trick to this recipe is making the leaves and meat mixture come out evenly. So, if you have to steam a few more leaves or not use as many as you’ve steamed, then no problem. Every head of cabbage is uniquely different, just like each of us!
Once you have them all rolled and pinned together you’re going to cook the cabbage rolls in the oven. Some may cook on the stove top, and I suppose you could do that with this recipe, too. These were so so good that everyone dug in and literally ate before I could get pictures of the finished product, so just imagine in your mind or make them and you’ll see!
Regular cabbage is perfect for this recipe, but you can experiment with purple cabbage, Savoy cabbage and even Napa cabbage. I've even thought about using Swiss chard leaves! One to one and a half cups of bread crumbs or crushed crackers (i.e., saltines) can be substituted for the rice. This recipe could be done in a slow cooker or crock pot. I'd cook on HIGH for about 4 hours.
Regular cabbage is perfect for this recipe, but you can experiment with purple cabbage, Savoy cabbage and even Napa cabbage. I've even thought about using Swiss chard leaves!
One to one and a half cups of bread crumbs or crushed crackers (i.e., saltines) can be substituted for the rice.
This recipe could be done in a slow cooker or crock pot. I'd cook on HIGH for about 4 hours.