(Recipe below) Just about every other Sunday growing up meant that my family was heading over to my grandparents house for an after church Sunday supper. At that time my great-grandmother was still alive, and she was in charge of orchestrating the kitchen goings on. She would be putting the finishing touches on whatever was being made while directing in her “rustic” native Serbian tongue to the other family members about how much feta cheese goes on the salads, or how to place the wedged potatoes in the pan for roasting. If memory serves me correctly she didn’t stand but around five feet, and couldn’t have weighed much more than 90 pounds. She had long white braided hair and just a few teeth visible when she smiled her welcome. She wore a flowery house dress (usually blue) with the standard apron over her slight frame. Her skin was dark (denoting her Eastern European roots) and very wrinkled because of years of goat herding back in Yugoslavia (no kidding…..goat herder!). But I digress. What I do remember most from those days back in the early 70’s was the smells. It would hit you long before you opened the front door. Roasted onions, garlic, oregano all hit you smack dab in the face when the car door opened. But what was truly magical was when the front door opened, and the more subtle smells rounded out the picture: fresh lemons and tomatoes; newly chopped mint and the like. Wow, talk about a trip down memory lane. Makes me nostalgic and weak kneed just thinking about it.
One of the dishes that means home to me from way back when is Sarma (roll the “r” when pronouncing it). It generally consists of cabbage, meat, rice, sauerkraut, and tomato juice. Think a cross between mama’s meat loaf and stuffed grape leaves.
• 1 lg. cabbage head • 1 lb. ground beef • 1 lb. ground pork • 4 or 5 thin smoked pork chops • 1 large bottle/can of V8 • 1 med. Onion diced fine • 1 lg. jar sauerkraut • 1 1/2 c. uncooked minute rice • Salt and pepper to taste
Half fill a soup pot with water. Bring water to a boil. Cut core out of the cabbage. Put cabbage into boiling water, core side down. About 15 minutes later try to peel some leaves off. (Do this in a roasting pan.) Cut more core out and return to pot. To finish leaves cut heavy backbone thin, for easy rolling.
Mix together; meat, salt, and onion. Add rice. Scoop meat mixture into cabbage leaves. Roll and tuck ends.
In large soup pot, cut extra cabbage up and layer on bottom of pot. Next one layer of cabbage rolls then one layer of sauerkraut and top with smoked chop or two. Alternate layers of rolls, kraut and chops. Pour sauerkraut juice, V8 and finish filling with water to top layer. Top with extra cabbage leaves. Bring pot to boil. Turn down to simmer for 2 1/2 hours.