Galuskis: The Smell of My Family Christmas

When you think of the smell of Christmas, what does it bring to mind? Maybe cinnamon and nutmeg? Cranberries? Gingerbread? Roasting chestnuts? A fresh cut Christmas tree? Peppermint candy canes?

One of my very favorite memories of Christmases past is of waking up to the smell of galuskis, or cabbage rolls, cooking. My mother’s family calls them ‘piggies.’

The smell would make my stomach growl and it would finally feel like Christmas Eve because my mom would cook these especially for our Christmas gathering with my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

With around forty people packed into my grandmother’s small house, once everyone began to make a plate you had to be quick to grab a piggy or they would soon disappear.

I love cabbage rolls but my husband and kids do not, so I rarely make them and love when my mother does.

They are rather simple to make but you will find many different variations in recipes depending on where in Europe your family may have originated. The recipe we make is somewhat of a mishmash of Czech and German, from my mother’s side of the family. There are many Volga German families in my area (Germans from Russia) and the galuskis some of them make are less tomatoey and have vinegar, which I don’t care for; my other grandmother made hers this way.

I am a dump cook and do not use a recipe, so I tried to estimate the amounts for ingredients for you, below.

Please note, I have seen cabbage rolls baked in the oven, cooked in a covered pot on the stove, or even cooked using a pressure cooker, but we generally use a Crockpot and cook them overnight.

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1 latge head of green cabbage
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
salt & pepper (to taste)
1 cup uncooked rice
1 egg
1 can tomato soup

1 jar saurkraut

1 tbsp brown sugar


1. Using a knife, cut around the round stalk at the bottom of the head of cabbage to loosen the leaves. Place the cabbage in a freezer for an hour. The leaves will be slightly wilted and easy to peel off.

Note: Alternatively, you can boil the head of cabbage and peel the leaves off, but it is not as easy as the freezer method and I always get burned fingertips.

2. In a large bowl mix the ground beef and ground pork, along with the egg, dry rice, salt & pepper, and garlic. Mix well.

My mom cooking this morning

3. Roll a handful of the meat mixture in a cabbage leaf and place in the bottom of the crockpot. Continue until a layer covers the bottom of the crock.

4. Add a layer of onions and saurkraut.

5. Repeat layering the cabbage rolls and the onions and kraut until no more cabbage and meat remains.

6. Mix the can of soup with the brown sugar and pour over the top. Add a can of water.

Note: Some more traditional recipes will used diced or stewed tomatoes instead of the tomato soup.

Rolls in the Crockpot while cooking

7. Cover and cook on low overnight or for 8 hours in the Crockpot.

Serve alone or on top of mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

Mmmmmm, delish!

Do you make cabbage rolls? Is your recipe different? I would love to hear from you!

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