This recipe pays homage to my Nebraska roots . . . When you think about the state, what first comes to mind? For most it’s corn, Big Red football and Omaha Steaks®. Now, after you read this post, you’ll be adding cabbage burgers to the list.
They are individual-sized, savory yeast bread stuffed with peppered beef, cabbage and onions; baked golden brown. Simple ingredients and spices that make for a comforting, satisfying meal. For those not in on these little treasures, think calzone, empanada or pierogi rather than a typical burger. In Nebraska, they are also called cabbage buns or runzas; in Kansas, bierocks.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, cabbage burgers were introduced to the mid-west by German Russians (Volga Germans) who immigrated to the U.S. and settled primarily along the plains of Nebraska and Kansas. Since then, they have been notable, regional fare. Runza®, a Nebraska fast-food franchise, serves them up in a variety of flavors.
Growing up, my Mexican family ate plenty. I suspect it’s because the pillowy treats provide a good way to stretch a pound of ground beef. When my mom baked a batch, they were heavier on the cabbage than beef. I still like ‘em like that. No surprise, I’m a big fan of cabbage – raw and cooked. This recipe comes from the bread maker in my family, my sister Monica.
All you Huskers, I expect a shout out on this one. Leave a comment about how you eat your cabbage burgers.
Tidbits on Cabbage:
- Cabbage belongs to the Cruciferae family of vegetables along with kale, broccoli, collards and brussels sprouts. There are an estimated 100 different varieties of cabbage grown in the world. The most common types in the U.S., however, are the green, red, savoy and Chinese varieties – bok choy and napa.
- Cabbage is estimated to have been cultivated more than 4,000 years and domesticated for over 2,500 years. It is believed to have originated from wild loose-leaf cabbage brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. Since it is a cool weather crop and stores well during winter, it soon became a major crop in Europe – particularly in Germany, Poland and Russia.
- Cabbage has several health benefits: phytonutrients in cabbage and other crucifers help the body detoxify; cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, as well as good source fiber, manganese, folate, vitamin B6, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Since phytonutrients react with carbon steel and turn cabbage leaves black, use a stainless steel knife to cut.
These freeze well after they have cooled. However, my husband and I easily ate an entire batch in two days. Consider making double the amount – freeze and reheat for a comforting snack.
Cabbage Burgers – Runzas or Bieroks
Makes 8 (Serves 4); Preheat oven 375º
Bread dough – recipe below (substitute with 2 loaves frozen white bread dough thawed overnight)
1 pound ground beef (80% lean)
1 small onion
1/2 medium green cabbage, chopped small or shred
1/2 teaspoon pepper, preferably fresh ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
Swiss or cheddar cheese, optional
- Have bread dough prepared/thawed. In a large skillet with deep sides, brown hamburger. Remove excess grease by draining in a colander. Reserve 2 tablespoons grease. Leave browned beef in colander. Add reserved grease back to the skillet; add onions and chopped cabbage. Stir until cabbage wilts. Return ground beef back to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and reduce to simmer 10 minutes.
- After bread dough has risen/thawed: divide dough into 8 pieces total; roll each piece out into 6” rounds on lightly floured surface (they do not have to be perfectly shaped). Add a scant 1/2 cup meat/cabbage mixture to the center of each. (You may have extra filling left.) Add a slice of cheese on top of the cabbage mixture (optional).
- Fold the sides of the bread over the center so they overlap slightly; then fold the top and bottom making a rectangle between 4 to 5 inches long. Be certain to pinch the edges to seal.
- Carefully place seam side down on greased baking sheet with low edges. Cover with a dish towel; let stand for at least 20 minutes in a warm location allowing bread to rise. Bake in 375 º pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown – top and underneath.
- Serve hot.
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 cups flour
3/4 cup milk (scalded and returned to room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon dried herbs, optional
Scald milk over the stove or in the microwave; let cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, add sugar, warm water and gently stir in yeast. Let stand 5 minutes, do not stir. The mixture should bubble. Blend in milk, salt, butter and flour. Mix well. Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead several minutes until smooth and elastic. (If the dough is tacky, add more flour by the tablespoonful and incorporate. It may need 2 – 4 tablespoons of flour. The final dough should be supple and smooth without being overworked.) Place dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover bowl with damp cloth; let rise 30 minutes in warm location.
Meat: ground turkey, pepperoni, sausage, chicken, turkey, etc.
Vegetables: make a vegetarian version adding shredded carrot, small dices of zucchini, potatoes, peas, etc. Watch the water content on certain veggies, you don’t want a soggy runza.
Varieties: add jalapenos and cumin for Southwestern version; oregano and sun-dried tomato for Italian; feta, parsley and allspice for Middle-Eastern; curry for Indian, etc.