STUFFED CABBAGE AND STEW WARDENS

When someone says stuffed cabbage to me I think of home and my mother’s cooking. Dad was Russian and these small individual cabbage rolls were always called Halupshi at home, which is the Ukrainian way. However there are several variation of the word in the different Slovak countries. These little morsels of meat filled cabbage leaves were sautéed brown, then a tomato sauce, just lightly seasoned, was poured into the pan to finish them off. Serves with potatoes and canned corn, it was heaven on a plate to me.

My husband, being a Yankee as far back as you can go, isn’t as enchanted with halupshi as I am. (The boat is still parked where they landed.) However, I saw a lovely savoy cabbage at the store and bought it. So off to the early cookery books I went. I know there are many stuffed cabbage receipts there. How Yankee could I get?  I looked at a few and decided that John Nott’s was the simplest to do.

In my freezer I still had forced meat from a lumber pie I made in December and a small piece of pork roast. Allan ground up the pork and added garlic and spices. He combined this with the lumber pie mix and some chopped mushroom. We love mushroom, so they go in almost everything we make. Adding a little egg and water, we had our stuffing for the cabbage.

Now the fun began, taking whole cabbage and turning it inside out. I knew this was going to be a wet process so I covered the table with a cloth and took my longest two tined fork and stabbed the bottom of the cabbage. I had a pot of boiling water on the fire and in it went.

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The trick to softening the leaves is to keep turning the fork and pushing the cabbage down. Out it came after a few minutes and the first layer was peeled back and then it went back in. After ten minutes or so, layer by layer it blooms like a flower. And, of course, your fingers become red hot.2 copy

I had on hand some pears and Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery with a receipt “To Stew Wardens.” Wardens refer to several varieties of pears, all of which stay hard and need stewing to be eatable. They were grafting wardens in Lexington the day of the fighting. (There’s that Yankee thing again.) In a small bowl, I mixed together ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg and put it to some white wine and apple jack in my redware pipkin. The pears were peeled and seeded and placed upside down to start. With a bed of coals under them, they cooked away while I warmed my fingers peeling cabbage.

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The cabbage was turned back until I got to the small center ball that was left. This center will be turned into a cabbage, potato, and bacon soup next week.6 opy

Allan’s mixture of stuffing meat went inside the cabbage leaves and I carefully folded them back one at a time in the order they had been peeled.  The cabbage was then put on a cheese cloth, wrapped tight, and then tied with butcher string, it was ready to boil.

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The water in the pot was boiling when the cabbage ball went in, and we put on more logs so it would simmer for at least 1 ½ hours, while we sat and caught up on some reading. When it was ready, I lifted it out of the steaming pot.

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And steaming it was. The cheese cloth was cut and the cabbage opened to reveal a ball of boiled meat. This is where the Russian in me said, “I have to eat this.” However, I put on a brave face and plated our evening meal.

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What a wonderful surprise; it was good! The lumber pie mix mingled with the leftover pork and had a subtle taste of cloves and other sweet spices, yet a hint of garlic and mushroom were present. The savoy cabbage is so different from the hard cabbage we are use to, with its strong taste and smell. This was buttery tasting and the aroma was wonderful.

Our pears had been turned over during the stewing and the sauce had browned just a bit adding a nice note to the sweet spice flavor.

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Allan declared the meal a hit, the Yankee he is. We both said we would do this again soon. However, in the back of my mind I thought of the many dinners at home on the hill, and had plans for the leftovers. Who said the Cold War was over!

The next day, as I wrote this blog, I got hungry for the halupshi of home.

LUNCH TIME!!

Out came the leftovers. I put a little water in the pan and put the cabbage and forced meat in, added some frozen corn and butter and steamed, then fried, the whole lot of it. With a cube of frozen tomato sauce I always have in the freezer, I made my own version of Russian food. No potatoes though, so I stole a few potato chips from Allan’s sandwich plate.

Ah, my lunch was complete.

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Sandie

“We eat to live (and some of us live to eat), but food also carries with it the smells and tastes of places, families and histories.”

Harriet Deacon, consultant correspondent to the Archival Platform

PS Workshops are filling up. Don’t miss out on a great experecnes at the hearth.  For more information see the Listing on Workshops.

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About Sandie

Since I was a small child I have loved early fireplaces and the smell of smoke in an old house. However it was not until about Fifteen years ago that my journey into hearth cooking began. It all started at the Hurd House Museum in Woodbury Ct. I was the director of the Junior Docent program and among the programs each week we cooked. At about the same time a group of us started the Culinary Historians of Connecticut meeting once a month to discuss equipment used, receipt (18th century term for recipe), and anything between the late 1600 to late 1700 that had to do with hearth cooking. We were fortunate to try our hand at cooking at several Museums throughout Ct and many more private homes. We made cheese; we held a late 1600 dinner and shared our knowledge with others. Our group designrd our own tours such as the Kitchens of Old Wethersfield. In 2000 we were delighted to host the Historic Foodways group of ALFAM at the Hurd House during their conference at Mystic Seaport. We put together a great workshop of Puddings, Sausages, Brown Bread, Beverages you name it we offered it. I am now a member of the ALFAM foodways group. Then it was off to Colonial Williamsburg for the seminar The Art of 18th-Century Cooking: Farm to Hearth to Table. During the years I joined many workshops in Sturbridge Village plus their Dinner in a Country Village and breakfast at the Freeman Farm. So I was pretty much hooked on heart cooking and the 18th century way of life. I joined a wonderful group of ladies and we started the “Hive” a place to improve and grow your 18th century impression and offer research about material culture in 17070’s New England. We also travel with friends and have displays of clothing and teas at Museums in Massachusetts. Many events are held at the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Park. They have been gracious enough to let us play there and entertain and share our knowledge with their visitors. Please visit our “Hive” site if the 1700 interest you. Then the move to New Hampshire and a job at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth as the co-coordinator of the Junior Role Playing workshop and eventually cooking in front of the hearth at the Wheelwright house. Not only did I enjoy making my evening meals at the hearth to take home but also talking with the visitors. I am an entertainer after all, check out my program page. Most recently I am working at the Museum of Old York in Maine as an educator, hearth cook and organizer of the Junior Docent cooking program in the summer. See some photos in the archive file Because I do make food with the docents and serve food to the public at our Tavern Dinners I took the National Restaurant Association tests called ServSafe and now have my Certification as a Restaurant Manager. I look forward to the Museum of Old York opening again this March 2012 and getting back to the hearth and teaching, however for now I’m cooking at home and enjoying doing so.

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