I originally am from Transylvania, a region in Romania popular with many thanks to Dracula. But for locals, Transylvania is much more than that. It's about traditions, especially during the holidays.
For Romanians, Christmas is all about family and food. We gather around an abundant holiday table full of elaborate traditional dishes. Whether rich or poor, we all enjoy a big feast on Christmas day.
We have a famous saying in Romania: The best bird is the pig. And that's particularly true around Christmas when our pork consumption goes through the roof. Everything starts with the slaughtering of the pig, an old traditional ceremony that occurs shortly before Christmas. Across the country, Romanians slaughter, roast and butcher the pig and prepare special dishes from every part of the animal including pork and rice sausages, ham, black pudding, smoked bacon, head cheese and trotters. And we shall not forget the crispy pig ears and pig's tail, which I loved to eat as a kid.
Perhaps the most popular pork treats on our Christmas table are those wonderful and insanely delicious stuffed cabbage rolls, known in Romania as sarmale. They are hearty and taste even better the next day when the flavors and spices meld. The best part is that we make stuffed cabbage in large quantities, at least three dozen rolls at a time. One year, my grandma made 50 stuffed cabbage rolls for Christmas. They were all gone by New Year's Eve. So, she made 50 more.
Here, you can find my family's recipe for stuffed cabbage, a great meal to be enjoyed year round.
Simply Romanesco photo