It's summer in Northwest Indiana and that means lots of ethnic festivals.
One of the first is this Sunday, which is Croatian Day at St. Joseph the Worker Croatian Church in Gary.
Sarma (stuffed cabbage rolls) are to the Croatians as pierogi are to the Polish. You can't have a neighborhood festival without them. Charlene Gurko, of Gary, who has belonged to the parish all her life, considers them a favorite family food tradition.
While Czechs and Slovaks call them holubky, Polish refer to them as golabki. But the recipe basics remain the same: meat and a filler, like rice or barley, rolled up in a leaf and cooked on the stove or in the oven.
In the past, I'm told the women of St. Joseph the Worker Croatian Church would prepare the sarma. But this year, the parish priest, Rev. Steve Loncar, who is from Croatia, will be preparing and supervising the making of the 240 sarma for the dinners served at the church using his special recipe from his homeland.
He says the secret is in the roux, which is that all-important mixture of flour and oil.
Aside from the sarma dinners, I'm told there will also be barbeque lamb and pig sold by the pound, Raznjici (shish-ka-bob), Muckalica (pork stir fry), and Cevapcici (sausage) dinners.
Lots of sweets, including traditional palacinke (crepes) and strudels, will be available.
Although Father Steve would not share his recipe (you must attend Croatian Day to taste his), he did share a similar recipe from Mary Podnar, from the cookbook the church created for their 100th anniversary in 2012, which he said is available for $15.
Croatian Day at St. Joseph the Worker Croatian Church, 330 E. Ave. Gary, in the church hall is from noon to 4 p.m. this Sunday. FYI: (219) 980-1846.
Mary Podnar's Stuffed Cabbage made with Lamb
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 large head cabbage
2 pounds ground beef
1 pound ground lamb
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons pepper
1 cup rice pre-boiled (just bring to a boil)
1 small clove garlic, chopped fine
1 medium onion chopped fine
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons shortening
1 large can tomato paste
DIRECTIONS: Combine ground beef, lamb, eggs, salt and pepper, rice, garlic and onion and mix well. To prepare cabbage: Remove core from head and put cabbage into a large pot of boiling water to which vinegar is added, boil about 10 minutes, remove cabbage and cool. Separate leaves and partially remove the heavy vein of the leaves down the center. Leaves will be ready for rolling. Depending on the size of the leaf, put meat mixture about an inch from the edge, roll front edge over once then fold right edge over. Complete rolling and tuck in remaining left edge with fingers. Make a gravy by browning flour in hot shortening, stir until golden brown and smooth, add tomato paste and mix well. Add one can of water to thin. Place rolls in large roasting pan, pour gravy over them and add enough water to cover. Bake at 350 degrees at least two hours. Makes 16 rolls.