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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published April 13 2011

Halgrimson: Sarma stirs fond memories

Not only do I have wonderful memories of the meals my mom and grandma cooked to cosset my spirit, but in the past I learned a lot about food from dishes prepared by family friends. One of those meals was the Sarma made by June Probstfield Dobervich.

Many cultures have a dish in which meats or vegetables are wrapped in a leaf – be it cabbage or grape; sometimes even beet, lettuce or spinach leaves are used.

But June’s Sarma, which may have come from her husband Eli’s Serbian roots, used cabbage.

Born in Moorhead to one of the city’s earliest pioneer families, she graduated from North Dakota Agricultural College (now NDSU) and was active in community affairs.

She, along with my cousin, Beverly Halbeisen Blanich, founded the Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre. June also participated in her family’s business, Paul Mark Imperial Preserves, a jam and jelly company, named for her two sons.

After her divorce, June taught English at Fargo South High School, earned her master’s degree in counseling and then worked as a counselor there until she retired in 1982. June died in 2006.

June lived next door to my parents with her youngest daughter, Jane. Also living nearby was Kevin Rognlie, the son of one of my high school teachers, Phil Rognlie, who also was a friend of my mother. Jane and Kevin married and now live in Portland, Ore. We keep in touch.

So when I make Sarma, I am aware of the warm and loving connections with both the Dobervich and Rognlie families. And I treasure those memories.


2 medium heads cabbage

1 pound lean ground pork

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground veal, ham or lamb

2 teaspoons salt

1 scant teaspoon sage

½ teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon monosodium glutamate (MSG)

½ teaspoon garlic salt

¾ cup long grain rice

2 large onions, finely diced

1 large green pepper, finely diced

1 egg

freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 cans sauerkraut, (20 ounces each) well rinsed

water for cooking

Pull off tough outer leaves of the cabbage and cut out core. Cook cabbage in boiling water to cover, 5 minutes or until leaves separate easily. Separate the individual leaves and dry.

Combine remaining ingredients except sauerkraut and water, wrap a serving of the meat mixture in a cabbage leaf. Layer kraut and cabbage-wrapped meat rolls in a large kettle with two cups of water and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 hours.

Water may be added as needed. Homemade sauerkraut improves this recipe. It may be used as a one-dish meal or served with a green salad.

Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com