My heritage from my Mom’s side of the family is Slovak, so I grew up with this culture firmly in place, food-wise. When I was growing up, it was Czechoslovakia. Now, I know that my Mom’s parents came from Slovakia. All my grandparents came over from Europe in the very early 1900s, bringing with them the knowledge of the foods they ate in the “old country.”
Many recipes that I have seen elsewhere for some of the foods I grew up with, such as Chicken Paprikas, are very rich, with sour cream or other cream added in. The version I know is simpler, and less rich, though I cannot say it is any less good, for all that. I suspect that my Slovak Grandma, living in town during the Depression and the World Wars, learned to make do with less than optimal ingredients at times. My version of Chicken Paprikas came with no formal recipe, but was passed down by word of mouth.
I remember my Slovak Grandma more for her savory foods 롤대리 : Holupki, Chicken Paprikas and others. Here is my recipe for Holupki, known all through those countries varyingly as Holupki, Holabki, Golumki, Golabki, Sarma, in Romania, and I am sure, many other variations.
Holupki or Cabbage Rolls
Makes approximately 12, depending on size
1 large cabbage
2 pounds hamburger meat, or substitute 1/2 pound of the meat with ground pork
1 medium onion, chopped and lightly sauteed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 cup rice, uncooked
1 can tomato sauce, 14-ounces
1 can crushed tomatoes, 14-ounces
1/2 teaspoon sugar to round out the flavor
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
2 or more sprigs fresh thyme
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Remove some of the outer cabbage leaves, as whole as possible. Place these into the boiling water until they are softened, then remove and set aside. When the leaves on the remaining cabbage become too entangled to separate in one piece, place the rest of the whole head into the pot and allow the leaves to soften. Remove periodically to trim off leaves at the core end. You will need at least 12 or so viable cabbage leaves for rolling the meat. Take the remaining cabbage and chop roughly. Place half the chopped cabbage into the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven. Set aside the remaining chopped cabbage.
In a large bowl, mix together the meat or meats and the next 7 ingredients. Do not over mix. Trim off the thickest vein section of one cabbage leaf, then take approximately 2/3 to 3/4 cup worth of meat mixture and set on one end of the leaf. Roll, folding in ends and tucking as necessary. Repeat, until all the meat is rolled into cabbage leaves. Place the rolls into the pot, on top of the chopped cabbage. Top with the remaining chopped cabbage. Tuck the bay leaves down between the rolls, and place the thyme sprigs on top.
Combine together the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Add in the extra 1/2 teaspoon of salt and sugar and some freshly ground pepper, to taste. Pour the tomato mixture over the cabbage rolls. The rolls should not be submerged, but barely covered. If the tomato mixture is not quite high enough, add water until just the tops of the rolls are visible.