12 October 2010

Gram's Galumpki


Signs of Autumn

What is it that tells you most convincingly that autumn has arrived? Is it that the air turns cool as scarlet and orange begin to blush in the treetops and drift to the ground? Is it the abundance and variety of apples and squash that crowd the produce aisles in the supermarket? Or maybe the bright hue of mums in purple, gold and crimson in the garden section or on the neighbors' front porches?

At my house as our schedules tighten up, sports kick into gear and the light begins to turn a more golden blue I begin to hear particular requests for dinner that seldom come in other seasons. Chicken and Dumplings is one of my youngest son’s all time favorite dinners. It’s savory warmth and stick-to-your-ribs flavor begins to beckon in early fall. Likewise I hear requests for old-fashioned Meatloaf and Galumpki.

Hearing these requests gladdens my heart. These recipes differ from other seasonal favorites. These recipes are family favorites that have been handed down over the generations. My grandmother made Chicken and Dumplings much like I make nearly a century ago. Her chickens likely came from the back yard rather than the supermarket but the savory dish that resulted was much the same. I learned to make it from my aunt who was taught by my grandmother and likely learned it from her mother before her who brought her simple dishes and hearty German fare with her to America in the late 1800’s.

A Turn Toward Tradition

Galumpki has the same appeal but comes from my husband’s side of the family. It is a dish my husband remembers eating as a child. His mother was of Polish descent and she made it much as her mother had made it before her. Likely it goes farther back with a slight variation here and there, to even earlier generations. Everyone in the family seemed to enjoy this traditional main dish and it had the added benefit of being a great way to stretch ground meat into a hearty meal for a family of eight.

I have made Galumpki though I would have simply called it Cabbage Rolls. Last year my husband decided to dig for the particular details of the authentic recipe for the Galumpki he remembered so fondly. He contacted his mother’s younger sisters who still live near the place they grew up in New York. He asked them about Galumpki. They didn’t have a real recipe written out but they discussed it with interest and shared some tips.

One offered that the meat to rice ratio should be about one to one. She said that she always used ground beef in her Galumpki. She said that Gram never used pork though others would. To the ground beef she added a finely chopped onion, some garlic salt, salt and pepper. Mixed together well, like a meat loaf, that would make a good basic filling.

The Way Gram Made It

Together my husband’s aunts shared tips about preparing the cabbage to roll the filling in. The trick they said was finding good cabbage with big flat leaves. The cabbage leaves need to be separated carefully and then the vein or central rib needs to be trimmed with a sharp knife to make the leaves flatter and easier to roll.

For the sauce they offered a choice. Some used tomato sauce they said, but they agreed that Gram had preferred Campbell’s Tomato Soup. They put a little sauce or soup on the bottom of the baking dish then layer the cabbage rolls on top. They suggested using several cans but added that they, like Gram, make a lot at one time.

They concluded their tips by suggesting the Galumpki should bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. As an alternate you can slow cook them in an oven turned down low for 4 or 5 hours, especially if you are cooking a large quantity.

Sharing Memories

It was a lot of information and seeded some great family discussion. My father-in-law remembered eating Galumpki, at his Russian grandmother's house.  They called it Halupsi and they ate it often.  Then he began to talk about growing up in Yonkers. You could hear the boyish wonder in his lively voice. He had known hard times; growing up during the depression, joining the army and going to Europe during WW2, still there were extraordinary things he had seen and experienced, from bright innovations to a warm ethnic meal and they left an indelible print on his memory he was glad to share. When he focused on that memory it could take him back to another time and to an appreciation for all that was right with the world and the American dream.

This year it is my oldest son who has been asking for Galumpki. He has recently identified in a new way with the Polish line of his heritage. Since I had yet to post the recipe in our family cookbook he asked me to make Galumpki with him. He wanted to learn how it was done and then share this family recipe with his friends.

We had a good time working together as a family that day. As we worked through the recipe, along with the notes and the tips from my husband’s aunts, I was warmed by the traditions born out in our Galumpki and the thread of simple practical cooking that fills a family’s soul as well as their stomachs. Having the generations gather in the kitchen through a recipe and the fond memories of taste and smell we find ourselves fed in new ways and, more than full, richly satisfied. That is a lovely feeling, one of the exquisite joys of fall cooking.



Gram's Galumpki

1 or 2 heads of cabbage ( you will need 12-16 large leaves)

1 lb ground beef (80% lean or so)
2 cups cooked rice (cooked five minutes short of specified time)
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

tomato soup (1 or 2 small cans)
or
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced

fresh thyme leaves (several sprigs, 1 - 2 teaspoons)

Cut the core from the head of cabbage and wash well. Fill a large saucepan or pot (I use a 4 quart saucepot) with about 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Add ½ teaspoon salt and the head of cabbage, core side down. Cover and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the outer cabbage leaves are tender and flexible but not mushy.

Carefully remove the head of cabbage from the pot. Run under cold water until it can comfortably be handled. Gently separate the leaves. If you get to the point where the leaves are still crisp return the remaining portion to the boiling water to cook a little longer. Repeat until you have enough cooked leaves for the number of cabbage rolls you want to make (12 -16 large leaves). Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, cooked rice, onion, egg, garlic powder, black pepper and salt. Mix thoroughly. (I reach in and use clean hands to squish the mixture together.)

If using the tomato sauce mixture instead of canned tomato soup, stir together the tomato sauce, lemon juice and minced garlic in a small bowl.

Prepare a baking dish by spraying it with nonstick cooking spray. (I use a 7 x 11 inch rectangular baking dish but this does not usually hold all of the rolls. Any baking dish can be used but cooking time may vary depending on how the rolls are arranged.) Cover the bottom of the dish with half of the tomato soup or tomato sauce mixture. Set the rest of the soup or sauce aside for the topping.


Place cabbage leaves on a cutting board one by one and, with a sharp knife, trim much of the thickness from the central ridge of the cabbage leaf starting at the core end and cutting toward the outer edge. This will flatten the ridge making it flush with the leaf and easier to roll.


Place ¼ cup of the meat mixture near the lower core edge of the cabbage leaf. Fold the lower edge up over the meat mixture. Then fold in each side of the leaf toward the middle. Roll the leaf tucking in the sides as you go. Squeeze the rolled cabbage leaf in your fist to shape the bundle and place it seam side down in a rectangular baking dish. Repeat until all of the meat mixture has been used.


Cover the cabbage rolls with the remaining tomato soup or sauce. Scatter thyme leaves over all. Cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil.

Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover. Bake another 15 minutes or until ground beef is done through.

Serve and enjoy!

52 comments:

Alanna Kellogg said...

Ah so now we have one in common! The name 'galumpki' was new to me when JW's niece-in-law's mother wanted to bring them to Thanksgiving last year. They were a little dry but I recognized them as one of my own grandmother's favorites, she called them "hallop-shees" - no idea of the spelling and "pigs in a blanket" which I suppose does suggest pork versus beef. Glad to see how this dish is carrying your family both "backward" and "forward". Such is the power of food ...

scmom (Barbara) said...

Oh yum. One of my favorite things. I use tomato soup and always feel slightly inadequate for it. I'm glad to see you do too.

grace said...

great share, lisa! frankly, i'll be saying 'galumpki' for the rest of the day and any time i need to smile. :)

Mary Beth said...

Lisa, I've made "cabbage rolls" from time to time over the years because we had it in my famiy when I was growing up too. I tried your recipe and it is the best I have ever tasted. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

My father's side of the family is Polish and we have a big Polish feast every Christmas. My grandmother always made the galumpkies and she always used tomato soup. I make them now, and being someone who loves cooking, it kills me to just open a can of soup and pour it in - but it is tradition :) It was great to see that is how other families do it as well. Thanks for posting :)

fittingbackin said...

oh this is SO SO COOL - I have to try this asap. Thank you for the post!

Julie said...

My mom made these growing up and I loved them. She passed away a few years ago and when I saw this recipe I knew it was the right one! I made them today and it made me smile and cry at the same time. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. They are just like my mom's.

Lisa said...

Hi Julie! Thanks for leaving your comment. That's one of the things I really love about sharing recipes, the way they can pull a thread through time and bring us back into the company of those who are dear to us. I'm so glad you enjoyed Gram's Galumpki!

Catherine said...

My mom made these at least once a month throughout my childhood. The only difference between her recipe and yours was she used tomato juice and thinly sliced onion on top. Special memories,

Anonymous said...

I'm very Polish and Russian and golobki [that's how it's spelled] ... pronounced "guam-key" is a very homey dish to me.

Anonymous said...

The recipie I use does not call for tomato soup. I use tomato sauce with beer, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar and they take about 6.5 hours to cook. They are sooooo delish though and well worth the wait : )

sande said...

My mom called it pigs in a blanket, again must be because some used pork. My mom used beef. It was out of this world!!! And most of my family would fight over the cabbage so in between layers of the rolls, she would put layers of cabbage as well, and needing more of her canned tomato sauce. I think she used a couple of quarts of sauce and stick in the oven for hours... I put it in the crockpot and I dont use that much sauce or cabbage but still so good and nice warm memories of growing up!!

Greg said...

Hi Lisa - For a minute there I thought maybe you were a long lost relative. My grandmother from Glen Head NY who we used to call Gram or Grammie was Polish and used to make these stuffed cabbage or Galumpki. How I loved this dish what fond memories. I am making it this weekend and was looking for the recipe that was as close to hers as I could get and I believe yours is it. Thanks!

Lynn said...

Halupki is what my Czechoslovakian grandma called it.

Anonymous said...

I think the "halupki" is a regional thing...very common in PA Dutch country. The correct spelling is "gołabki" (that's already plural), but "galumpki" is the Americanized phonetic pronunciation. I just made a big pan yesterday and took them to a going-away party. They were delish!

Anonymous said...

when I was a kid we had grape jelly on our stuffed cabbage, I'm fifty seven and still put jelly on mine. Give it a try

Colleengb said...

"Cabbage Rolls" is what I grew up hearing and calling them. My friend and I get together late November or early December every year and have a marathon day of making Cabbage Rolls. We usually make between 5 - 7 dozen each...and freeze them in meal size foil containers...enough for the whole year. I love them.

Claudette said...

The recipe is very similar to my friends family tradition only they add saurekraut to the top of the cabbage rolls and bake them for hours - Urkramian Christmas Eve tradition.

ann.miles said...

Át our house it's pigs in a blanket....you can also soften leaves by putting cabbage in freezers for several hrs. Or over nt..when I get to the inner inside leaves ; I chop them and put in bottom of container. Then add cabbage rolls...I also use jarred spaghetti sauce to cover layers...

Sarah said...

This sounds like the recipe I grew up with and is similar to many other 'authentic' recipes. I was taught to add some black pepper (freshly ground, of course) and a healthy pinch of cloves in the meat mixture, and to the sauce, a tablespoon of brown sugar and a quarter cup of chopped raisins. A fried of mine recently told me its easier to core the cabbage and then freeze it overnight. I'll be trying that next time. (=

Heather Ash said...

My maternal grandparents are polish. Growing up, this and perogies, were two of my favorite things my grandpa would make. We would have ours with fried salt pork sprinkled over the top of it... yummy!!!

kathy shaw said...

My Grandmother was Croatian and we had stuffed cabbage every Christmas and Easter. I now make them for my family and have taught my daughter and granddaughter how to make them. I was pleased to see you flattened the leaf of cabbage and made the core level, I have found over the years most forego this step - also we boil our cabbage head in vingear water and peel the leaves off as they soften. I chop up all the extra cabbage pieces and put into the roaster - we also layer with sauerkraut and use tomato juice (something Grandmas did not do) to cover. I probably make about 60-70 at a time and we eat on them for a couple days. Thanks for the memories. Kathy

Gill said...

Just had some and they were great. Instead of tomato soup when you are eating them, try cooking a small chopped onion in 1 tbs of butter. Then wisk in 1 cup chicken broth and 2 tbs flour. Blend together adding salt, pepper and 2u tbs brown sugar. Delicious dipping sauce.

Anonymous said...

I like to add a smidgen of sauerkraut in the layers.....

Anonymous said...

Both of my parents were of polish descent and this was a much loved dish we all enjoyed. My mother's sauce was mixing a can of Campbells tomato soup & a can of crm of mushroom soup together and pouring over the cabbage rolls. I get loads of compliments when I serve this dish to old & new!Try this, you might like it.

Anonymous said...

True word for it is golomki. My mom always made them with different types of meat so they were moister and did the Campbell soup for the sauce.

Anonymous said...

a friend of my parents used to make "haloop shees" every year for a Grey Cup party. He made a huge pot of smaller, appetizer sized cabbage rolls and they were to die for. I will have to try this recipe. I usually make "undone cabbage rolls" all the same ingredients but not rolled up, more like a casserole. Thanks for sharing

Bo Zarnick said...

Golabki (means "small pidgeon", i am assuming because the shape of the rolls look like a de-feathered and de-legged bird) is the holiday standard in my house. Along with pierogis and kielbasa from our little Polish deli here in Glendora, Ca.
I have tried to stick with my grandmothers recipe that I remember from my childhood, though I have tinkered with it. I use 2 parts ground beef - 1 part spicy italian sausage and 2 parts rice with some tomato paste in the sauce/meat mix to help with consistancy.
We make massive amounts, about 6 - 8 dozen. Using large roasting pans (place the smaller or torn cabbage leaves to cover the bottom of the pan before placing the rolls) I put the golabki in layers with a light coat of pasta sauce on every layer. I also use left over cabbage leaves to cover the last layer to protect the golabki from burning.
Bake the day before at 350* for 2 -3 hours (large quantity) then refridgerate. Next day I rebake 1 tray at a time at 275* for an hour or so.

Lisa said...

Thank you all for sharing your comments. What a great discussion!
I love the idea of making appetizer-sized rolls to take to a party. I have also made "Undone Cabbage Rolls" when time is short.
Mixing or varying the meat in the filling sounds like a great idea that fits with many tips shared here. And laying the leftover or extra cabbage bits on the bottom of the casserole dish is definitely a step I will add next time I make them.
Thanks again, dear readers, for your interest and for sharing your story!

kimmybee said...

My mom added a little salt pork to the filling as well! She also used half ground beef and half ground pork. And instead of tomato sauce or soup, she used an entire large can of tomato juice! That kept them very moist!!!!! Both sets of my grandparents are from Poland.

Cori G said...

We call it halupki for our Russian heritage. The woman who taught me how to make them did it in a pot rather than a casserole, and we layer sauerkraut, then keilbasa, then the halupki, then pour tomato juice/V8

Anonymous said...

My mother in law always used salt pork in the bottome of the pan. Then she would put in the filled cabbage rolls and pour enough water to fill 3/4 to the top. They would cook on the stove for about 3 hours. Always yummy.

Anonymous said...


I layer the cabbage rolls with sauerkraut and onions. Then pour the tomato soup on top. Use to cook on top of stove but now use a crockpot. doesn't cook away the soup.

Anonymous said...

G'day! I'm a Canadian now residing in Australia. My Aussie husband loves my cooking...especially my cabbage rolls. My twist to this tried and true "comfort food" was to add to my ground beef, rice, finely chopped onions, and spices...a can of very well drained saurkraut (sp?)...reserving the liquid. I use Campbell's tomato soup too...and add the reserved liquid to it - along with a good grinding of cracked pepper. Everyone I have served this dish to has raved about them. I always have fresh sour cream, crisp and crumbled bacon and beautiful cheddar cheese, onion and potato perogies along side with the rolls. Delish!!!

Lisa said...

Thank you all for your wonderful comments! Adding sauerkraut and/or salt pork sound like interesting variations. Every version here sounds delicious and your enthusiasm is infectious. Thank you so much for sharing!

Anna Marie Miazga said...

I make Galumpki similar to yours, only I add a small amount of green or red pepper to the rice and hamburg mixture, not to much, so it won't take over the taste of the Galumpki. My 90 year old Polish Aunt told me to to add 1 lb of bacon, fried crispy & crumbled, to my mixture. I always use 4 lbs of hamburg to 4 cups of cooked rice, makes about 32 Galumpki. I use 1 large can of tomato sauce to pour on top and between the layers. Add water almost to the top of the Galumpki in the roasting pan. Heat roaster on top of stove first, to warm through, then put it in oven, cooks faster.

Lisa said...

Anna Marie - Thank you for sharing your recipe tips. Peppers sound like a nice addition to the filling and I can see how that crumbled bacon would be a real injection of crowd-pleasing flavor! I also appreciate your thoughts on warming it through before putting the Galumpki in the oven. Great ideas!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you know this, but the Polish way to say/spell this is Golabki(go-wump-ki). It's said differently in different languages & countries, but this is the Polish way. I recently found out my grandmother was saying pierogi(peer-oh-gee)wrong. She said it pee-dawg-gey. My mother's side is all Polish.

Anonymous said...

My mother is 100% Polish and my grandfather a Polish import via Ellis Island. Golambki is how we spell (go-wump-ki). If your favorite pierogi is filled with kapusta, you just might be a Polak.

Sarah Thompson said...

My Family is a unique mix. Irish (mom's side), Scotts and a mix of eastern European backgrounds(dad's side) Italian (step-mom's side). Every winter/Fall family get together we had included "pigs in a blanket" as we called them. Only we always used tomato juice for the sauce, slow cook them in a crock pot, and serve with mashed potatoes. At home my mom would sometimes make colcannon to eat with it mixing in her Irish.

Christi Mills said...

This is almost the same exact recipe that my husband's polish grandmother taught me how to make. Except she uses 1 pound hamburg & 1/2 a pound ground pork & 2 cups cooked rice. She lines the bottom of the pan with the smaller, non-usable leaves, layers the golumpki inside, then puts salt pork or bacon on the top. Then she mixes one can campbells tomato soup with one larger can of stewed tomatoes & then pours the combined mixture over the top. Then she covers it with the smaller, non-usable leaves & covers with tinfoil & bakes the same as you!! The recipe doesnt waste those smaller leaves you cant use & using them in that manner keeps them nice & juicy! yummo :>)

Christi Mills said...

I'm sorry, I wrote that wrong, 1 pound hamburg, 1/2 a pound ground pork & 2 1/2 cups rice...the rest of your recipe is the exact same, except for the rest of the exceptions i listed in above post!! I will be looking to see if you have a recipe posted for bigos!! The galompki & bigos is only two of several she taught me. She has now passed & her recipes are even more special now!!

Lisa said...

Hi, Christi. Thanks for your comments! I like the idea of mixing the tomato soup with a can of stewed or diced tomatoes to add some rustic texture to the sauce. It also sounds smart to add the small, otherwise unused, cabbage leaves to the casserole. Waste not, want not!

I don't have a recipe for Bigos. I will have to remember to ask my father-in-law about it the next time I see him. I just looked it up on-line and it sounds like a great dish for this time of year. I would love to know more about it!

Lisa said...

Sarah - Somehow, it has never occurred to me to serve Galumpki with mashed potatoes. Now that you mention it though, it seems so obvious! I will definitely do that next time I make them. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

Rodney said...

My children is usually a one of a kind combine. Irish (mom's side), Scotts and a variety of far eastern European backgrounds(dad's side) Italian language (step-mom's side). Every winter/Fall spouse and children celebration there was bundled "pigs inside a blanket" even as known as these. Only most of us always utilized tomato veggie juice for that sauce, slow-moving prepare these inside a crock container, and work along with mashed oranges. Rodney
In the home my personal mommy would likely occasionally produce colcannon to enjoy by using it mixing up inside her Irish.

Anonymous said...

I'm polish and I make these often a little different. I have a change for those who are vegeterian substitute the meat for mushrooms and mushroom sauce...aaaaamazzing...

Anonymous said...

As a child I had galumpki several times at other people's homes. I loved, loved, loved them. Now that I'm grown I did attempt once, about 10 years ago, to recreate galumpkis and it was a disaster - they tasted nothing like the ones I had as a child.....until last night. Your Gram's galumpkis were spot on. The ingredients are deceivingly simple and the finished product is comfort food extraordinaire. My 10 yr. old son was refusing to try them because he "hates cabbage no matter what" tried one bite and was hooked (really!). We're eating them as left-overs tonight. I can't wait. Thank you for sharing. Sandra, Ballston Spa, NY

Lisa Miller said...

Ohhh my gosh. I am so happy to find this recipe. My Polish grandmother used to make this when I was a child and I always loved it. When I would ask for the recipe she would say she didn't have one, but this looks like it would be really close to what she made. I am making this tonight!!

Janice said...

My family never used tomato sauce or juice. Mom and Gram always rendered down bacon and browned the parcels in the grease, drained, poured off the grease and then put back the cabbage parcels in the pot and steamed . The bacon bits were crumbled put on top with extra cabbage leaves before steaming.

Amy Wilson said...

I grew up in Western PA and "halupki's" was the ethnic name we always used but also cabbage rolls and pigs in a blanket although I never used ground pork. I do however use tomato soup but also mix it with tomato juice and to me....this beats tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce by MILES! This is such a great dish to make in bulk and freeze. The cold weather is calling for "halupki" !!!!

Sande said...

My mother made the world's best galumpki which is amazing because she was not what you would say a great cook. She was taught by her Polish neighbor and we'd beg her to make them more often. She cooked them in an Electric Oven and usually made about 75 at a time, so they weren't made often enough for me and my Dad.
I've never heard them referred to as "pigs in a blanket"...in our family that was hot dogs that were baked in dinner rolls.

Her recipe is pretty close to the one you posted. Using a pound of ground beef for each cup of cooked rice. The onion & fresh garlic finely minced were sauteed and added to the rice/meat mixture. She also chopped any left over cabbage and made a bed on the bottom of the roaster then ladled some of the water she boiled the cabbage in. Because she made so many she did a layer of stuffed cabbage, sauce and a layer of bacon (on every other layer). Repeated that till all stuffed rolls were used, a layer of sauce and bacon. Her sauce was 4 large cans of Tomato Soup & a cup of brown sugar and then cans were filled halfway with the cabbage water. Baked for hours with the lid on.

Lisa said...

Thank you all for sharing your recipe details and traditions for making this dish! I enjoy reading about the unique variations and love having so many recipe hints, ideas and memories here to browse through.