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Sarma Sour Cabbage Rolls

Sarma Sour Cabbage Rolls 2017: A Traditional Serbian Specialty

Sarma Sour Cabbage Rolls: a traditional Serbian speciality with smoked pork ribs and bacon. Step by step instructions for this melt in your mouth recipe.
Course Main
Cuisine Eastern European
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings 40 -50 small rolls
Author Valerie Lugonja


  • 1 kilo fatty know-your-farmer ground pork (40% fat)
  • ½ cup rice
  • ½ cup onion , minced (about ½ large onion or whole small onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 tablespoon excellent quality sweet paprika (Hungarian or Serbian)
  • 1 teaspoon Vegeta
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper , or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon salt , as required by taste (sour cabbage and Vegeta are both salty)
  • 1 large head sour cabbage
  • ½ rack of double smoked pork ribs , sliced and separated
  • 1 four inch slab of double smoked pork bacon , sliced


  1. Mix first eight ingredients together by hand, until completely incorporated; set aside
  2. Rinse cabbage leaves, if necessary (if too salty); separate leaves from head and place in large bowl
  3. Set up work surface with cutting board, knife, tea towel, filling, leaves, bowl for leaf ribs and lead ends, sheet pan covered with parchment paper
  4. Cut out large tough vein from leaf; roll a meatball sized portion of meat into each leaf half (outer leaves may be exceptionally large, and divided into four)
  5. Hold roll in one hand with open end facing up; using thumb of other hand, push leaf ends into middle of roll tucking all inside to close it; turn roll over and repeat process with other end
  6. Place neatly rolled and tidily closed roll seam side down on parchment covered sheet pan; continue until done
  7. Cover bottom or a heavy large pot or Dutch oven with leaf ends and ribs, adding smoked ribs and sliced smoked bacon around the sides and/or on the bottom of the pot; nestle first layer of rolls into the bottom of the pot
  8. Add more ribs and bacon around edges or on top of first layer of rolls; nestle second layer of rolls around smoked meat
  9. Repeat process until pot is filled and all rolls are gone with a good inch or two remaining at top: be sure to have 3 to 4 good pieces of meat per layer (not only does it flavour the rolls, it is a delicious accompaniment in its own right, and all too often fought over)
  10. Fill with water to completely cover all ingredients in pot (enough room for simmering at top of pot is necessary to prevent overflow on stove top); cover completely with remaining leaf ribs and ends to keep top layer of rolls moist
  11. Place lid on an angle with vent for steam to escape; bring to slow rolling simmer-like boil for a minimum of three hours
  12. Add extra water to keep rolls covered throughout cooking process, as needed (check every hour)
  13. Feast on it straight out of the pot, when done, of course, with fresh baked bread: YUM!
  14. Cool remainder completely; re-plate rolls and smoked meat into casserole dishes and freeze well sealed, labeled and dated for future use, covering with extra leaves, and ensuring rolls in each dish are covered with remaining cooking juices from pot

Recipe Notes

Traditionally served with sour cream and crusty bread. Nothing else. Or, always on a celebration table with a host of other traditional celebratory foods.