Golumpki, Traditional Polish Cabbage Rolls, Pigs in the Blanket

Hello Friends,

Today's recipe and instructions is for Traditional Classic Golumpki, Polish Cabbage Rolls sometimes called Pigs in the Blanket - not by us Polish folks though!

This is how we make them in my Polish family.  Both sets of my Grandparents were Polish immigrants. I grew up in a Polish neighborhood.  My Grandparents as well as many of our friends and neighbors spoke Polish, at best broken English.  Our Polish parish church and school were the hub of the community. We lived right behind the church/school.  My parents had the keys to all the facilities and our entire family was very active in the church.  The Gospel was proclaimed in both Polish and English and we sang many Polish hymns.  The school taught in Polish in the morning and English in the afternoon until the 1950's.

My Mom was known by everyone as one of the best home cooks.  Even in our huge Polish family and neighborhood, her pirogi and golumpki were cherished by all.  We don't follow a recipe but I have given detailed instructions and approximate recipe amounts in my blog posts for these classic homemade treats.

There are many variations on family recipes for any old world classics.  Here is how we make the golabki:

We make a large amount using the classic blue enamel roaster. These roasters provide superior heat, don't react with the acid from the tomatoes and seal nicely for slow roasting perfection.  If you don't have the blue enamel roaster you can use a stainless steel roaster or a glass pan.  Never use aluminum with anything tomato based as the tomatoes react with aluminum which negatively effects your final dish.  You can make more or less as the recipe is easily adapted.

We usually start with two good sized heads of cabbage.  Use the standard green cabbage, nothing fancy after all this is peasant food!

3 to 5 pounds of ground chuck or higher fat content ground beef.  You don't want the super lean, 80% is good.  Any excess fats that render out of the golabki is easily removed once you cool them down as the fats will solidify so you can lift them off. That is the only meat we use, some add some ground pork so that is an option if you prefer but I stick with what works for us. We never used anything but beef.

Regular long grain white rice.  I like a lot of rice but you can adjust to your taste.  I use about 1/2 to 1 cup of blanched rice for each pound of meat. Never use instant rice, it just disappears during the long slow roast.

Yellow onions - one small to medium for each pound of meat. Finely chop the onions and saute them in a little oil.

 A couple of individual cloves of garlic for each pound of meat.  I add the whole cloves to the roasting pan to impart the flavors throughout while roasting.

Salt, about a teaspoon per pound of meat and freshly ground black pepper about 1/4 teaspoon per pound of meat.

Tomatoes - the very best is our own canned garden tomatoes. If you don't have home canned you can use a good quality canned tomatoes from the supermarket.  San Marzano are the best, you can get them whole and smash them up or used crushed or diced.  Any plain tomatoes will work.  We also use  V8 vegetable juice.  You need enough to cover the golumpki so a quart of tomatoes and a cup or so of V8 at a minimum.  If you are making a full roaster you may need more.  You can also add some tomato sauce or paste if you prefer a thicker sauce.  I usually do add some sauce to the canned tomatoes and V8.  We never ever use tomato soup as that alters the flavor in a negative way that we find unpleasant.

And finally some slices of bacon to layer on the top of the roaster.

Simple ingredients but all good quality yield the best results.


Bring a small pot of water to full boil, remove from heat, add salt and rice.  Allow to sit while you prep the other ingredients so the rice is par boiled but not fully cooked. Strain off the water when you are ready to assemble the meat mixture.

Bring a large stock pot to boil to blanch the cabbage.  Once the water boils, salt the water, use a sharp knife and make a few cuts around the core of head of cabbage.  Immerse the head of cabbage in the boiling water.  The leaves will soften and separate from the core.  You just want them blanched and softened so you can roll the golabki, you aren't fully cooking the cabbage leaves.  Use tongs to separate the leaves from the head as they loosen and wait another 30 seconds or so and remove to a colander.  Repeat until all the leaves are removed.

Use a sharp knife to trim the tough stem from each cabbage leaf and set them aside to cool for assembly.

Combine the beef, blanched rice, sauteed onions, salt and pepper.

Take a cabbage leaf. place the meat on the stem end of the leaf.  You can make them any size you wish.  I like to use about 3/4 cup for each golumpki but sometimes make the larger, it doesn't really matter just personal preference.  Begin to roll the cabbage around the meat, fold in the two sides and roll up snugly.  Place the seam side down in the roaster.  Continue until you are finished with all the cabbage and filling mixture.  If you have left over meat you can just form them into balls and cook with the assembled cabbage rolls.  If you have left over cabbage you can cut it up, saute it, make haluski, freeze for soups etc.

Once your roasting pan is filled with the golumpki cover them with the tomatoes, V8, and sauces that you choose to use.  You may want to add some salt and pepper to the tomatoes if you are using unseasoned sauces/juices. Add the garlic cloves. Cover the surface with sliced bacon.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Cover the roaster and roast.  Now, this is very important for the final product flavor and texture -  Bake a long time!  My Mom always made these on Saturday morning.  They would be in the oven by 9 or 10 AM and they weren't ready until early afternoon.  Yes, many hours.  That is the difference between tender flavorful stuffed cabbage slow infused with all of the blended flavors and a bland result. Of course, this is for a full roaster with several layers of pigs in the blanket.  If you are making less and only have single layer it will take much less time.  Your home should be filled with aroma, the golumki should yield nicely with the soft touch of a fork, the cabbage should be "fall apart" tender.  I find that the only way to mess up this dish is to ignore the long slow roast.

This recipe if very forgiving.  You can make a lot of adjustments to  your taste.  Give them a try and Enjoy!

Thanks for visiting.


 Haluski Recipe

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