In the past year or so I learned that "Pigs in the Blanket" means something completely different to those who don't come from places that weren't heavily influenced by Eastern European immigrants.* Apparently there are philistines who think a Pig in a Blanket is a vienna sausage wrapped in pastry dough. And in the UK, it refers to sausages wrapped in bacon. 

Now, do those sound tasty? Sure, in the same one dimensional way that McDonald's tasted good when you were a kid. But you know what else tasted good back then? Paste. 

So what are real Pigs in the Blanket? They're cabbage rolls stuffed with a seasoned meat mixture and braised for an hour or two, that's what. And they blow the other recipes for Pigs in the Blanket out of the water, with their one-toned approach of adding bacon and dough.  Those imposters!

Now, the thing about Pigs in the Blanket is that there are countless iterations of the basic recipe. Some might add juniper berries, for instance. Others might add different types of cabbage. The one included here is from my grandmother. Is it the best? Honestly, no. She jotted this down on a note card for her own reference, and it reads that way. The measurements are imprecise, for instance. And there's not even a direction for how to actually cook the dish.

But considering its simplicity, anyone should be able to make this dish or something like it -- and should. Consider adding a couple of tablespoons of good, flavorful paprika into the mixture, or serving the dish with a dollop of sour cream. That'll put hair on your chest and gas in your belly.

*Scribal Marginalia: Our Mother's side is from Johnstown, PA which the Archivist would be pleased to imagine as being liberally doused with Eastern Europeans were he not getting the sides of his family confused. His conception is likely due to the significant German influence that I heard was in that area, and which, to a Lambert, is proof enough - Germany being somewhere past France and all. Our Grandmother Myra's family is from Talbot County on MD's Eastern Shore. There are no Eastern Europeans there. It's where Frederick Douglass was a slave. I believe that side enjoyed calling themselves Irish. This is all to point out that the Lamberts have absolutely no idea where they're from other than some vague sense of having been in S.E. Washington DC for a generation or so. Who exactly was our Grandfather? He seems to have just descended in some kind of pod. Both of them, actually. The point is, having no clue or particular concern about who we are, or the nature of where we're from, we are free to feel pride in any claim we care to make for as long as convenient and then to discard said claim when our whim calls for something other. It is therefore not all that remarkable that the Archivist attributes this recipe to our ostensibly Irish grandmother, Myra,  who never even heard of Pigs in the Blanket, after pridefully asserting his familial connection with Eastern Europe.  

Archivist's Note:  I like cabbage rolls, which obviously means we've got Eastern European heritage. But this is the first I've heard of Myra being Irish. I'll file that away with our alleged blood ties to a nonspecific American Indian tribe.

Scribal Marginalia: I base the Irish claim on some vague things Aunt Mabel once said that I can't remember. Riley was the maiden name of our great grandmother who thought Richard was Midget the Chihuahua. For all I know, they were from Estonia. But conversations like these are best left to the comments field. Scholarship reigns here.

Myra's Pigs in the Blanket

2 and 1/4 to 2 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped and sauteed
3 eggs
1 large handful rice
dash garlic powder
1 large head cabbage, boiled
2 cans tomato soup
1 8oz can tomato sauce
pinch sugar
sauerkraut (mild)

Mix first 8 ingredients (up to but not counting cabbage). Roll mixture in cabbage leaves. (Slice stem of cabbage leaf first.). Mix Soup + sauce + sugar -- add a little water. Pour some over rolls. Add sauerkraut. Top with remaining sauce. 

Archivist's Note #1: Although the original recipe ended here, a prudent cook would also heat this preparation to kill germs. We suggest an hour and a half or so in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. 

Additionally, the "tomato sauce" might not be a reference to pasta sauce, at least as we think of it.  We suggest either using a small can of tomato paste with a package of chopped tomatoes or simply preparing your own sauce in a pan (a shockingly simple task). 

Why not just use pasta sauce? Because modern tomato sauce is  significantly different than any product available when this recipe was written down. That's because for a long time Prego and Ragu were the major players in the business, and neither of them were making much other than one or two types of sauce. And it wasn't until the 1980s that they started to make chunky sauce. Here's someone who explains this in more detail than you probably need.

Perhaps even more relevant is that high fructose corn syrup is in modern pasta sauces, which means everything tastes like sugar anyway. So just go make your own.

Scribal Marginalia: One needs to point out the difference between tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce. Prego and Ragu are spaghetti sauces, not tomato sauces. Tomato sauces are found in the canned tomato section, not in the "Italian" section with all the pasta.  Additionally, I differ with certain other authorities on the subject of tomato paste. If you thicken with paste, you will end with something more like a pizza sauce. Simply use a respectable brand of tomato sauce being careful to actually pay attention to what the hell you're doing and you will be fine. The can actually says Tomato Sauce. Not pureed tomatoes. Not chopped. Whole is out of the question. I do prefer this as a base for pasta sauce, but if you thought Prego and Ragu were ever tomato sauces, they're not. Did Pigs in the Blanket ever taste Italian you? Would adding sauerkraut to Ragu be the action of anyone sane? And I didn't read the link because I already know that no one is a smart as I am. 

Archivist's Note #2: Although it reads as if I intended that someone use the entire can, I just meant to use a little dab of tomato paste. Also, I think I picked up calling it "tomato sauce" when I was in Ohio. It sounds like something someone from Ohio might say. Besides, you know what they call pasta sauce in Chicago? Gravy.* And that's just madness. In Australia, "tomato sauce" means "ketchup." They call it that because Australians don't know how to name anything.**

* I learned this after watching several episodes of The Sopranos. Apparently it is an Italian-American thing, which is why it is prevalent in Chicago. Or at least that's what the internet tells me. 

** See, e.g.: chazwozza,  kookaburra, bandicoot, and wallaroo

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    The Archivist

    I am the Archivist: document thief and humble librarian. Look to me when you have questions; seek me out when the obscurities of Lambert custom are too baffling. 

    The Scribe

    I am the scribe.
    Daring and inspirational, it was I who authored the original Lost Text. I don't know where it is. When looking, you will not see it, for it resides nowhere in nothing.  And I? I am but here and there.


    August 2012


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