Gwumpki. When my husband first told me this is what his parents were making for us for dinner one night, I honestly had no clue what to expect. I knew it was a Polish dish that involved cabbage and meat, that was pretty much it.
Fast-forward a year–I’m a professional gwumpki lover, and now maker!
For those who don’t know. Gwumpki is a variation of stuffed cabbage, filled with some form of meat and rice, and cooked in a tomato sauce. From the first bite I ever took last year, I was hooked, requesting it for most of the winter when I was a guest at the husband’s household. It’s such a comforting dish to keep you warm, and after I found out this weekend, extremely easy to make.
Saturday was our first truly cold weekend of the fall, and I was craving this dish, so I figured I’d try to make it. I never actually asked my father-in-law for his recipe. Instead, I made mine based on what I knew I loved about his, and what I had in my fridge/freezer. It’s fairly easy, and since it’s a crock-pot recipe, it only took a little bit of prep-work and then I didn’t have to pay attention to it for a few hours.
How to make Gwumpki – Stuffed Cabbage: Printable
Core a head of cabbage by digging a paring knife into the bottom center around the root, and cut all the way around until you can pop the core out. The head of cabbage should still be one round ball. Place this, core(less) side down, in a sauce pot with about a half of an inch of water and cover. Heat this on the stove on medium until the water bubbles and the cabbage starts to steam a little bit (probably about 5-7 minutes). Flip the head of cabbage over and cover again; you can turn the heat off and leave this on the burner while you prepare the filling.
I took a package of local beef bratwurst I had sitting in the fridge, pulled the casings off, and used the ground meat for my filling. I also had about a quarter of a pound of ground turkey sitting in the fridge, so I mixed this in as well. I was later told by my father-in-law you can use any ground meat you have laying around, as long as there is a low fat to meat ratio. He likes to use some ground beef and a little bit of ground pork sausage. But honestly, anything works, so long as it tastes good!
Mix the ground meat (should be around 1 to 1 1/2 pounds raw) with about a cup of cooked rice and set the mixture aside. I decided to peel and shred a carrot into this as well since I had one lying around. I think next time I make this I may even use two carrots as I liked the subtle flavor they added. You can add some spices into this mixture as you see fit. I didn’t add anything. Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, and even hot sauce would be good additions.
There’s only one more preparation step before you get to start rolling–the crock pot! All I did was take 1/3 of a large can of tomato puree and pour it into the bottom of my crock pot to keep the cabbage rolls from sticking to the bottom and burning. I then took 1/4 of a thinly sliced onion and sprinkled this on top. I put the rest of the sauce and another 1/4 of the onion to the side for topping the rolls.
Now it’s time to start rolling. Take the cabbage out of the saucepan. You should be able to easily pull away whole leaves off of the head. If some of them rip, that is quite alright, you’ll just have smaller rolls. Pile all the leaves onto a clean kitchen towel to dry off while you peel the rest of the head apart.
Once your cabbage has been “peeled,” take a leaf and start filling it with some meat. I used my bare hands and did one small handful into the center of the leaf. I tucked in the bottom, folded in the sides, and rolled it up into a tight bundle. Once the cabbage is rolled, just place it into the crock-pot and repeat with the rest of the cabbage and filling. Once you get one layer of cabbage in the pot, just start to make another. You can put a little bit of sauce between layers if you like, but I didn’t even worry about it. It took me about 10 minutes total to do half a head of cabbage (that’s all we needed to make).
Once all the cabbage and filling has been used, pour the rest of the tomato puree on top of all of your layers, and sprinkle the rest of the onion. Cover the crock-pot and put on low to cook. This took about 5 hours, and by the time it was done, the house smelled amazing! I did have to add just a little bit of chicken broth in after it cooked for a while to keep it from drying out, but other than that, I got to ignore this all day long.
I was extremely proud of how well this dish turned out for several reasons. The first reason was that I had never made Gwumpki before, and it still tasted delicious! The second reason was that I took the leftovers to my father-in-law the next day, and he loved them! This is definitely a dish I will be making again and again.
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