Updated: Nov 8, 2022
Please don't pull up Google translation or adjust your language setting. I'm still writing in English.
But that phrase, dzien dobry is a Polish phrase I've heard almost every Sunday of my childhood. It's something you say to your friends "Have a Good Day!"
click the green arrow buttons to learn how to pronounce the phrases.
Jak sie masz is a greeting you would give to a friend meaning "How are you?". It's more slang than proper and not something you would say to a stranger.
In my St Patrick's Day blog about corned beef, I made the announcement that I am 99.4% Eastern European, 97.6% most likely Polish.
After Sunday mass we would visit my Bubba, my maternal grandma, Julie Cebulak Joniec at her house on Dunn Street in Stowe Township. Didi, my grandfather Mike Joniec would be sitting on the front step waiting for us. Bubba would be in the kitchen preparing lunch.
We would get there almost at the end of the radio program she listened to: The George L. Massey Polka Review. I can't find much about the song, but he ended every broadcast with this song: Just say Dzien Dobry. I know every single word because well, I heard it every single Sunday. (and, there aren't that many words!!)
When I hear the song, it almost brings tears to my eyes. If I close my eyes, I can smell my Grandparent's house--a mix between butter and onions, coffee, and Pall Malls, feel the hard squish of the plastic runners lining the hallway and the warmth of the oven as it cooked our lunch.
She often made stuffed cabbage. But it wasn't known by that name. See there are many ways to say "Stuffed Cabbage"
Pigs in a Blanket
*I pronounce all of those spellings the exact same way! (hehe)
My family interchanges Gwumpki and Halupki without regard. Either is correct in my family and neither is corrected if you say it.
Bubba would make gwumpki rather often, especially during the fall when cabbage was plentiful. She cooked hers in a porcelain coated Dutch Oven dish which I swear had the properties of a Mary Poppins carpet bag. Halupki just kept coming and coming out of that dish. She never ran out, no matter how many mouths she fed. It just kept serving stuffed cabbage after stuffed cabbage.
My mom has this very old cooking vessel. It's probably 60+ years old. She will use it from time to time when we make ours, but for us it only fits about 6-8 stuffed cabbage. I don't know how she did it!! Maybe Bubba's were smaller and skinner. It is one of those unknown mysteries that baffle me to this day.
Polish stuffed cabbage rolls are a classic comfort dish that has been passed from one generation to the next. Under any name, they are considered a national dish and are a cherished staple in every home. Many Polish families have a favorite recipe.
My family has two recipes. My mom taught my sister Kathy my bubba's. Kathy is the queen when it comes to making Halupki. She's taken over the job of making them for every holiday and special Sunday occasion. She makes hundreds, literally for Christmas Day. Each of the kids in the family can probably down a 1/2 dozen at one sitting. And that's not to mention the other people or multiple courses. Do you see why she makes hundreds?
Her recipe, well, is hers. And she'll give it to you, but it's hard to duplicate. Not sure what is different about hers when I make her recipe. But I can never get them quite like Kay's.
So, I've tweaked recipes I've read about and hers to make my own interpretation.
PS Most families serve them with mashed potatoes. My family serves them with potato salad. It's the juxtaposition of the warm halupki and the cold potato salad that I love the most. But when you make them, you decide what works best for making memories for you!
Let's get cooking!
Cooking Class with Carol
Things to Consider
Traditionally green cabbage is used to make the stuffed cabbage. I've played around with different types of cabbage and prefer savoy cabbage to every other cabbage. The veins of the savoy keep it a little crunchier than traditional green cabbage.
Doesn't Little Shop of Horrors Audrey II look like a savoy cabbage? If you still have that catchy little tune, Just Say Dzien Dobry in your head you've probably now switched to
Little shop of horrors
Little shop of terror
Call a cop
Little shop of horrors
No, oh, oh, no-oh!
Prepping the cabbage for rolling is extremely important. I use a large stock pot filled about halfway with salted water (maybe 1 tablespoon for every 12 quarts). I score the stock to allow the leaves to fall off of the stem when the hot water wilts the leaves. Drain and allow to cool before use.
If you read my haluski blog, the other H food, you'll know that I don't care for overcooked cabbage. The sulfur smell and taste just don't agree with me. Traditionally halupki is cooked low and slow; some people say for 4-6 hours, or overnight. I cook mine in a 11-quart Dutch oven for 90 minutes and that's it. I turn off the oven and allow them to sit in the oven until they come to room temperature. Usually that takes a few hours. But I learned that they would continue to cook with the residual heat from the cooking process and be better than if they were cooked for 4-6 hours (and then still cook with that residual heat.)
If time allows, I do not serve until the next day. This time lets the flavors meld together as well as all of the juices to be retained in the meat, making for a more tender and flavorful gwumpki.
The meat ratio I use is not a secret. But it may not be the ratio you like. I use the "Meatloaf" mix often found at my local grocery store. For one head of medium sized cabbage, I use
1: 1/2: 1/2
1 pound beef, 1/2-pound pork, 1/2-pound veal
If the grocery store doesn't have the prepacked "meatloaf mix" or I'm making many servings of stuffed cabbage, I will use
1 pound ground beef and 1 pound ground pork.
Many recipes don't use bacon, but I happen to love it. I place it between the layers, and it gives an extra smoky and delectable flavor.
I happen to like any type of sauerkraut. what I do is drain the kraut from the liquid, but I DO NOT rinse the kraut. The vinegar flavor is exactly what is needed to cut the richness of the meat.
Every time I think I'm going to make halupki for dinner, the dinner before I tend to make rice as a side dish. This way I can make extra rice for the stuffed cabbage. Using day old rice is fine. Most people will "par cook" or use "instant rice" for the stuffing. But I cook my rice all of the way. It helps to make the filling more tender. There is nothing worse than cutting into a stuffed cabbage with hard filling.
My mom uses long grain rice, but I prefer the stubby fat grains of the "Short Grain Rice" (it's what sushi rice is made with). It's plumper and gives more texture than long grain rice, in my opinion.
If I'm in a pinch and I don't have rice already prepared I will buy the 90 second rice in a pouch. Heat it according to the directions then add it to the stuffing mixture. It's a lot more expensive, but sometimes it's worth the time (and money).
Whatever rice you like is the one you should use.
Butter and Onions
There is no self-respecting polish recipe that calls for extra virgin olive oil (wink wink). And you know I love EVOO, just not normally in my Eastern European dishes. Let's face it, in the "old country" of Poland, I'm sure EVOO was not readily available. Butter was and still is the lipid of choice. I'm not telling you what to do, but don't use EVOO in place of the butter. In the grand scheme of the entire dish, the amount of butter used is offset by the nutritional value your body will receive with the cabbage.
I actually don't use canned tomatoes for my "sauce" I use canned soup. And not the fancy kind, just your basic Campbell's tomato soup, family size. I empty the condensed can and dilute it with only a 1/2 can of water. It's the perfect amount of sweetness needed for the sauce.
1 pound ground chuck (80/20), 1/2 pound ground pork, 1/2 pound ground veal
If you decide to not use veal, just double the ground pork
1 large white or yellow onion, finely diced
1 stick butter
2 jars sauerkraut, drained but not rinsed
2 medium or one large cabbage, green or savoy
1 cup cooked rice (according to instructions on package)
1 family size can Campbell's tomato soup
1/2 pound (or more to your taste) sliced bacon
1 Tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 to 1 1/2 kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
What to Do
Add about 12 quarts of water to a large stock pot. Add one tablespoon of salt.
Score each side of the cabbage core with a sharp knife to loosen the leaves from the stem. Add to the water and bring water to a boil. The leaves will not easily be removed until they wilt in the boiling water, 5-7 minutes. The cabbage will float.
Turn the cabbage upside down so the core is exposed and gently wiggle the leaves away from the core. Use tongs or fork if necessary. Drain in a colander and allow to cool. The process will take some time as the layers are removed. Be patient. You may have to lower the heat if it boils too much.
In a skillet over medium-high heat, add butter and onions. Sautee until onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Cool completely before adding to meat/rice mixture.
In a large bowl, add the rice and sauteed onions/butter. Mix well. Add meat. Continue to mix until well incorporated. Add 1- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper to the mixture. Mix well to combine. You can taste the seasoning but cooking off a small amount of the meat. Do not taste uncooked meat.
Take cooled cabbage leaf and 1-2 oz (I use an ice cream scoop for measuring) meat mixture and place in cabbage leaf at the bottom near the ribbing. Fold over once, bring sides together, and roll completely until edge. Place edge side down. Continue until all leaves are used or you run out of mixture! (There is no exact measurement, sorry)
Assemble the cabbage rolls in large Dutch oven. Layer bacon, sauerkraut, cabbage rolls. Repeat until the Dutch oven is almost full. Once the last layer of sauerkraut is at the top, add the tomato soup mixture. (One family sized can plus 1/2 can of water.) If halfway through pouring you feel there isn't enough liquid, you can add one more cup of water, but not much more. The cabbage and sauerkraut will leech it's liquid and heat will reduce to yield a delicious polish "kimchi")
Place in 385-degree oven for 90 minutes. Turn off oven and let the pot sit in the oven until completely cool-- about 3-4 hours. Do not open the oven door or the heat will escape.
I serve mine with potato salad. But serve with your favorite side dish.
PS-- I'll share my potato salad recipe in my next blog!!