Blind Pigeons Lithuanian Style Stuffed Cabbage

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Stuffed Cabbage Recipe (Balandeliai)

Blind Pigeons: Lithuanian Style Stuffed Cabbage

Blind Pigeons:
Lithuanian Style Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed cabbage has been popular among Eastern Europeans for centuries. A hearty comfort food that warms your body and fills your kitchen with enticing redolence, stuffed cabbage is known by many names.

Lithuanians call it balandėliai, Hungarians call it töltött káposzta, Czech and Slovak cultures call it holupky, and Poles call it golabki. Often referred to as “little doves” or “little pigeons,” my family always called them “blind pigeons,” while still others call them “pigs in the blanket.” Call it what you like, this dish is delicious comfort food!

Our balandeliai stuffed cabbage recipe serves eight to 10 people as a main course. It reheats exceptionally well and may even taste better the second day after the flavors have had a chance to meld together.

Serve it steaming hot in bowls with lots of its tomato sauce and a dollop of sour cream. Don’t forget a loaf of your favorite crusty bread to soak up the sauce!

Steaming Cabbage for Stuffed Cabbage Recipe

Steaming Cabbage for Stuffed Cabbage

Blind Pigeons (Balandėliai)
From the Kitchen of Peter Naujalis, 1929 – 1985

  • 6.75 lbs ground pork
  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 3 ribs celery
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 oz. saltine crackers (1 sleeve)
  • 7 cups tomato puree
  • 9 ¾ cups condensed tomato soup
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tsp seasoned salt

Mixing Ground Pork With Eggs, Celery, and Onions

Mixing Ground Pork
With Eggs, Celery, and Onions

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pennycress seed (also known as kolytos; optional)
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • ½ tsp msg
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • sour cream, for garnish

Yield: serves 8 to 10 as a main course.

With a sharp knife, carefully carve a circle into the center of the cabbage to remove its central core. Discard the core and one outer leaf. Rinse the cabbage under cold water and place it with the hole facing down in a stockpot. Add 4 cups of water to the pot. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, covered for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat, but leave the covered pot on the stove so that the cabbage has additional time to soften. Do not discard the water as you will use it later.

Add the eggs, evaporated milk, whole milk, and crackers to the pitcher of a blender and blend until combined. Add the celery, onions, and garlic. Blend on high speed until the mixture is a smooth purée.

Stuffing Cabbage With Pork For Blind Pigeons

Stuffing Cabbage With Pork
For Blind Pigeons

Add the ground pork to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the seasoned salt, salt, pennycress seed, marjoram, mustard seed, msg, and pepper over the pork. Blend the seasonings into the pork with your hands until thoroughly mixed and distributed throughout the pork.

Pour the liquid mixture from the blender over the pork and continue blending with your hands until well combined. Set this pork mixture aside.

Remove the cabbage from the pot of water. Carefully peel the cabbage leaves off the head one-by-one (trying not to tear them) and place them on a large plate or in a bowl.

Since the stuffed cabbage needs to cook for several hours and the cabbage leaves will unravel if stirred too frequently, cooking with two separate stockpots is ideal. If your blind pigeons are only two or three layers deep, you will be able to swirl the entire batch of them around the stockpot without disturbing their cabbage jackets. If you place everything in one giant stockpot, chances are, the very bottom layer will stick or burn.

Place two stockpots on your counter. Add 3 ½ cups of the tomato puree to each pot. Divide the condensed tomato soup between the two pots. Add two cups of the cabbage water to each pot. Stir each pot until the sauce is well combined.

Raw Stuffed Cabbage For Balandeliai

Raw Stuffed Cabbage For Balandeliai

Place a cabbage leaf on a cutting board or large plate. Mound some of the pork mixture in the center of the leaf — approximately ¾ cup to 1 cup — depending on the size of the leaf. Fold the thickest side of the leaf (with the heavy central vein) over the pork mixture. Fold the opposite side over the mixture, followed by the other two more pliable sides. Be careful to cover the pork mixture completely with the leaf.

Place the blind pigeon seam side down in the tomato sauce. Continue this process of folding the pork mixture into cabbage leaf jackets until all of the large cabbage leaves are used up or you run out of pork. Each time, place the blind pigeon seam side down in the tomato sauce. Tuck any remaining cabbage leaves into the sauce. If you have leftover pork, form it into balls and place them in the sauce.

Gently push the blind pigeons down into the sauce so they are covered with tomato sauce. Place the stockpots on the stove and heat over medium heat until the sauce boils. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pots with lids. Simmer for 3.5 hours, very gently swirling everything around in the pot every 30 minutes (just enough swirling to keep the bottom layer from sticking to the pot).

Serve these blind pigeons in bowls with tomato sauce ladled over the stuffed cabbage. Top the balandeliai with a dollop of sour cream. Gero apetito!

“Blind Pigeons: Lithuanian Style Stuffed Cabbage.” Tools for Kitchens. 12 Jan. 2013. Tools for Kitchens.

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6 comments
goodcookingone
goodcookingone

Well, well,  there must be many different recipes for the cabbage rolls as there are different Lithuanian last names. And we all think that our mothers or grandmothers recipes are the best. We love what we know.

But do save yourself all lot of time and mess..... if you just put them in deep roaster and cook them in the oven. As a chef who has made hundreds and hundreds of these units....here is my tip: Just one layer in the roaster...use baking parchment to line your pan. If you have to use foil to cover your pan.... use some parchment paper on top of the rolls before covering with foil. The tomato sauce does cause damage to the foil.....it adds a weird flavor and can cause the foil to get holes and leave small black spots on the cabbage rolls. Enjoy..............

Janet Appling
Janet Appling

My mom always used ground beef and she never used the tomato soup. She added water and let the cabbage rolls form their own gravy. It was baked in the oven. This was served with potatoes. I think of all Lithuanian meals as comfort food. It is filling , nourishing and tastes good fresh or as leftovers.

Jennifer Legler
Jennifer Legler

I too use rice, not crackers, and never add milk. The egg is a binder, so no need for milk. I prefer ground beef but a mixture of pork and beef would be fine, too. Instead of stove top, it is much easier to use large roasting pan, cover with foil, and roast in oven. I usually put sauerkraut or extra cabbage on bottom of pan so no worry about the rolls sticking to the pan.

Giedre
Giedre

The correct translation for "Balandeliai" is Little Doves, NOT as referred to here as "blind pigeons".

Jurate
Jurate

Your Stuffed cabbage recipe with soda crackers is interesting, I have never hear of using soda cracker crumbs instead of rice. In my opinion the rice is what makes them over the top delicious!

Christiana
Christiana

Thank you for the clarification, Giedre. Please note the second paragraph of the article were little doves are referenced along with various other popular names.