Thursday, April 14, 2011

Heirloom Foods: Halupki

When I fist visited the home of my soon-to-be college roommate she introduced me to her friends Pirohi and Halupki.  They were rabbits.  She kept them in a metal cage tucked into a corner of her white-carpeted condo.  (That's another story.)  Although my roommate liked these traditional Eastern European comfort foods enough to name her rabbits after them, she wasn't much of a cook and I didn't eat pirohi or halupki until years later.

The first pirohi I ever ate was at the home of my friend Daniel Marlos and frequent readers of this blog know that I am now crazy about pirohi-- especially Daniel's pirohi.  I'm slightly less in love with halupki, which is to say that I like them, but if offered a choice between the two, I would pick pirohi without blinking an eye.  In fact, I think I could eat pirohi every day of my life and not get tired of them.  But when Daniel offered to make me homemade halupki with his own freshly-made sauerkraut, I couldn't resist.

Daniel called me that morning to ask if I thought it was ok if he made his meatless Lenten version of halupki using bacon grease, which he had stashed in the refrigerator.  I told him that I was sure God would appreciate his thriftiness and that it was fine by me.  Knowing me as he does, I'm sure this was the answer Daniel expected to receive, but he seemed pleased to get my approval nonetheless.  While I had him on the phone, I asked him to send me the recipe after he put the halupki in the oven.  He did.  And you'll find the recipe for halupki at the end of this blog report.

Daniel's Halupki, hot out of the oven, April 2011.

I arrived at Daniel's house just as he was pulling the halupki out of the oven and the smell was amazing-- assuming of course that you like the smell of sauerkraut, which luckily I do.  We didn't waste too much time chatting before we got down to the business of eating halupki.  I'm not sure if it was because I knew it was forbidden food, but it was incredible.  My bowl of halpuki also contained a surprise-- a porcupine!  I've had a lot of interesting meats in my day-- squirrel, guinea pig, snake, alligator-- there's not much I won't eat at least once.  But porcupine came as a bit of a shock.  At least until Daniel explained that that's what he calls the balls of extra filling baked in the sauce along with the halpuki.

I am a new convert to halupki fan club, but I must admit that I think I still like pirhoi just a little bit better.
Daniel's Halupki with Porcupine, April 2011.

Letter from Daniel Marlos, April 2011

Dear Susan Lutz,

I am thrilled that your press corp will be coming to supper today (between lunch and dinner).  The Mt Washington Slavik Bakery will be serving buckwheat Halupki with pickled cabbage leaves.  As you know, I pickled whole cabbage leaves when I made my last batch of sauerkraut.  My grandmother used to make Halupki or stuffed cabbage with pickled cabbage leaves for a more toothsome variation on an Eastern European classic.  Stuffed Cabbage recipes on the internet have been adapted for vegan palates by omitting the ground meat, but during Lent, Grandma Nanowsky often solved the meatless dilemma by using buckwheat.  Perhaps your readers will be amused that I took advantage of our friendship by calling you on the phone today to question the use of fat.  While I do not need to fast for Lent, we talked about the quandary of my using bacon grease as some of the requisite fat in this otherwise meatless recipe.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 2 cups buckwheat
  • 4-5 tablespoons fat of your choice
  • Large onion- chopped
  • Half a pound of fresh mushrooms- chopped
  • Porchini or other dried mushrooms reconstituted
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Caraway seeds
  • Chopped parsley
  • Sour cream, optional

  • Toss buckwheat with fat (bacon grease and corn oil) and roast in 350º oven until lightly browned.  Toss often to brown evenly.  Do not burn.
  • Transfer toasted buckwheat to a 2 quart Dutch oven to which 7-8 cups of water have been added.  Salt optional.  
  • Bake 375º for 45 minutes until water is absorbed.  Remove from oven and let sit.
  • Sauté a cup of onions and a cup of mushrooms each in their own lightly oiled cast iron skillet.  Do not burn.
  • Soak porchini mushrooms in water to reconstitute.  Chop porchini very fine.  Reserve mushroom water.
  • When buckwheat has sat for ten minutes, transfer to a large bowl.    
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add caraway seeds and parsley and mix thoroughly.  
  • Mix dried porchini, sauteed mushrooms, onions in one at a time and mix thoroughly.  
  • Shape into logs and wrap in pickled cabbage leaves  (See Daniel's recipe for sauerkraut for instructions).  Put the filling at the rib end of the leaf.  Fold sides over and roll.
As a note, this recipe makes way more filling than I needed.  I found a nice recipe for fried buckwheat in an old Ukrainian cookbook.  Shape buckwheat filling into patties.  Roll in bread crumbs and fry.  Serve  
with sour cream.  Though I have not tried this, I have plenty of leftover filling to experiment with.

Baking the Halupki

  • Start with Zaprashka (otherwise known as a roux).  
  • Put a layer of Halupki in the bottom of the 7 quart Dutch oven on top of the Zaprashka.  Continue layering until there are no more.  
  • Add Sauerkraut on top.  
  • Pour a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes (broken with a wooden spoon) on top.  
  • I made a few porcupines as well, which are filling balls without cabbage leaf covers.  (When a traditional meat and rice filling is used, the rice pokes beyond the perimeter of the meatball and gives an impression of a porcupine.)  
  • Cover and bake an hour at 350º for one hour.
  • Serve with sour cream if desired.
~Daniel Marlos

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