Sour cabbage rolls - sarma, the symbol of winter, holidays and mum’s kitchen

Sour cabbage rolls – sarma, the symbol of winter, holidays and mum’s kitchen

I love the smell and taste of gourmet “wraps” called sarmas. I enjoy while sarmas simmer on a low heat and the smells spread around the kitchen, for hours. It smells like home, home-made food, holidays, childhood. It takes me back to a different time, when food was prepared with more love and dedication.

I like tasty morsels, sarmas, those made with cabbage leaves, vine leaves and other collars, with or without meat, it doesn’t matter. I’m not particularly choosy.

Sarma made with listina is characteristic of Valjevo and its surroundings. You cannot buy listina on the market now, it is available in spring, when nature blooms. It’s the sour cabbage season now, the period of New Year and Christmas holidays and the right moment for sour cabbage sarma.

I usually don’t follow the recipe, I put everything to taste, I follow my own gut feeling. Then I secretly add some home-made or Mediterranean dry spice I brought from a trip, a secret ingredient which adds a different note to a dish. And it all depends on my mood or inspiration, and of course I do it with a lot of love.

Sarma is the only dish which can last for more than two days and the more you heat it up, the tastier it gets.

Sour cabbage sarma


  • 500 gof mince pork
  • 500 gof mince veal
  • 200 gsmoked pork ribs
  • 200 g of smoked bacon
  • grease
  • a cup of rice (you can put more)
  • 2 kg of sour cabbage heads
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 spoon of flour
  • 1 onion
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • a little bit of pepper
  • salt
  • spices


Fry finely chopped onion in grease, add mince meat, salt, pepper and spices to taste and stir, then add rice, stir again and put a lid on it and let it stew on a low heat (wash and soak rice in water prior to cooking). You can also add an egg or smoked meat or finely chopped bacon.

Put a few leaves of sour cabbage on the bottom of the pot in which you will cook sarma. Take a leaf of sour cabbage and put one spoon of the meat filling on it and roll it in a small, firm wrap. I prefer small sarmas, they are somehow more elegant, but they can also be bigger, it’s up to you. Tuck them in firmly so that the filling wouldn’t come out while sarmas cook. Put sarmas next to each other in the pot so that there is no space between them, in a few rows. Put a couple of bay leaves in the pot and a few peppercorns.

Wash smoked meat and bacon in hot water, chop them and put them between the rows of sarma. Add 5-6 peppercorns and 2 bay leaves. Pour cold water into the pot and cook sarma on a low heat for 3-4 hours.

In a pan prepare gravy with grease, a spoon of flour and one teaspoon of paprika, pour it over sarmas, put a lid back on and let it cook for half an hour.

Sarma will taste even better if you cook it on a wood-burning stove, the famous “smederevac”. And serve it with home-made proja made of corn flour ground in a watermill. Bon appétit!

P.S. For modern housewives, to save time and energy, there is a new device, dolmer, for rolling sarmas. Take a closer look at

Arranged: Rada Sević

Translation: Marija Đurđević




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