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My husband has been doing a lot of genealogy lately and he was surprised to learn that I’m only 3rd generation in the United States. I’m German through ancestry and I’m said to say I have very little knowledge of my German culture. It’s amazing how fast that can go away. I do know my grandmother used to speak German every now and then, so I picked up on a few words, and I used to carry around a German/English translation guide when I was a kid. I’ve always wanted to learn more German, and I even have a language program to help teach me, if I’d only take the time.
Learning more about my German Heritage is a lot more than just learning the language. It also has to do with learning the culture. Part of culture is the food. For us, it’s the Runza sandwich. This is a sandwich popular in our area, and it’s history started in Russia, then moved to Germany where it was then brought over to the states and is widely popular in Nebraska, where I call home. The runza sandwich traditionally is a bread pocket stuffed with seasoned cabbage and meat (usually beef or pork). These are absolutely fantastic, and for the past several years my family has transformed them into a casserole with a huge nod to the traditional Runza sandwich. This is the kind of food I serve up for Oktoberfest, right alongside a good German beer. You can bet I’m up on that aspect of our heritage!
This recipe is too good not to share, and I’ve been wanting to share it for awhile now. This time around I decided to pick up some Hillshire Farm® Polska Kielbasa. As a nod to the community I grew up in, which was largely of Polish ancestry, a Polish sausage, which is the translation of Polska Kielbasa, was often served with cooked cabbage. So, this dish is sort of a cultural tour of my own personal upbringing, combining the German and Polish influences, which makes it a bit more special to me.
Runza Casserole with Polska Kielbasa
Let’s get this simple recipe moving with the gathering of ingredients. For a 9X13 casserole dish, which is 12 servings, you’ll need two packages of Hillshire Farm Polska Kielbasa, a small head of cabbage, a medium onion, about a cup and a half of shredded swiss cheese and two tubes of refrigerated dough. We used crescent rolls, but you can use whatever kind you want as long as it comes out as a sheet instead of biscuits (we’ve tried biscuits for this, they don’t roll out well.) Oh, you’ll also need just a bit of water to help steam the cabbage and salt and pepper to taste. It doesn’t take much seasoning to make this fantastic!
Let’s start chopping up the vegetables! Cabbage first because it takes the longest to cook. If you’ve never cut up a cabbage before, don’t worry it’s easy. First slice it in half through the core, then make a wedge cut to remove the core. Once you’ve done that, just slice the cabbage into shreds. I know some people use a mandolin for this, but I prefer to just cut it by hand. It’s quicker for me, and I don’t need it extra thin for sauerkraut or coleslaw.
Put your cabbage into a large skillet. I have one that has a wide base and tall sides. It’s perfect for a small cabbage or half of a larger one. If the skillet seems full, don’t worry, the cabbage will cook down quite a bit. It always looks like a lot to begin with. Next add in the onion after you’ve chopped it, then a bit of salt and pepper. You’ll add more salt and pepper to taste after the cabbage has cooked down, so don’t go crazy here. Add in about a quarter cup of water, then bring the heat up to about a medium to get it cooking, put a lid on it to hold in the steam and reduce heat to low. Stir occasionally.
Alright now that the cabbage is cooking, it’s time to start building our casserole. First take one of the refrigerated doughs and place it in the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish.
Does this part of opening refrigerated bread dough make anyone else jump every time? Please tell me I’m not the only one.
Bake it according to package directions until done.
By now the bread layer should be finished, so you can add the cabbage mixture to the dish. Add in all of it. It should bring it pretty much to the top of the dish.
When it comes out is should have a beautiful golden crust. It also has the middle line cut perfectly for you. Just cut down the middle, then cut each one of those in half. Cut your dish in thirds lengthwise and you have yourself 12 equal servings!
I’m telling you, this is one of my family favorites. It’s not exactly traditional, but it’s our own fingerprint on our heritage working to keep a spark of our ancestors culture alive with a spark of modern twist. Plus, it’s delicious.
Serve this up to the adults in the family with your favorite beer, any non-alcohol drinking family members can enjoy a sarsaparilla for a bit of festive flair. I’m telling you, this is a great recipe to enjoy for Oktoberfest or anytime as a Fall flavor.
Runza Casserole with Polska Kielbasa
- 1 small head of cabbage chopped
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 packages of Hillshire Farm Polska Kielbasa
- 1 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
- 2 tubes refrigerated crescent roll dough
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup water
- Unroll one tube of refrigerated crescent roll dough into bottom of 9X13 baking dish and bake according to package directions. (Do not form into crescent rolls, leave them in a sheet to form a base crust)
- Place cabbage, onions, water and salt/pepper to taste in a skillet, heat at medium heat until it starts to cook, then cover and reduce heat and cook until cabbage is soft, stirring occasionally.
- Cut Polska Kielbasa into pieces and add to the cabbage mix, heat through.
- When cabbage is soft, season with salt and pepper to taste, then add mixture on top of the baked crescent roll sheet. Top with swiss cheese, then final sheet of unbaked crescent roll dough.
- Bake according to crescent roll dough instructions.
I know, I know, food and language are just two parts to an amazing culture I want to learn more about. I would love to visit Germany some day to learn more about the land my family originated from. I don’t know much about my family in Germany, but I would love to learn more.
Don’t forget to pick up some Hillshire Farm Polska Kielbasa next time you’re out at Walmart!
What recipe does your family love using Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage or Polska Kielbasa? Pick up some recipe inspiration and share your favorites in the comments below.