Saturday, April 21, 2012

Grumpkies, Galumpkis, Gowumpkies, Gołąbki, or Something Like That

What is this recipe called? My great-grandmother wrote it and she or one of her daughters tucked it within the pages of her 1908 Lowney's Cook Book.  I think it is or it is supposed to be Grumpkies. Maybe Gumpkies. Something like that.

A while back, I posted this recipe to my facebook page in hopes that someone would know of it. Susan, a childhood friend who now makes beautiful cakes for a living, recognized it as galumpkis. She wrote that her sister often makes them.

At that point, I figured my great-grandmother just couldn't spell galumpkis. But after talking to my mother, I think she was trying to spell grumpkies. Maybe.

In February, I was sitting in a car at a traffic light with my mother when she mentioned that she's had really good "grumpkies" at Patti's Pierogies, a restaurant in Fall River, Massachusetts. 

"Grumpkies?" I asked my mother.

"Grumpkies," she said.  "It's hamburg wrapped in cabbage."

"I thought it was galumpkis."

She gave me a puzzled look.

"I say grumpkies," she informed me.  (She hates it when she suspects that I'm challenging her Taunton accent.)

"I think I have your grandmother's recipe for grumpkies."

"Oh, yes, my grandmother made great grumpkies." 

Mystery solved. If my mother calls it grumpkies, then my great-grandmother probably did the same. But then I did a little more digging.

The newspaper article in the link on Patti's indicates that the staff there pronounces it gowumpky or gowumpkies. Is my great-grandmother's recipe supposed to be titled gumpkies? It looks kind of like gumpkies. Maybe I need a Polish language class. 

However you say it, after seeing this video about Patti's pierogies, I think I need to make a trip to Fall River. This restaurant looks like a lot of fun. Mom's been holding out on me. 

Some of you might know galumpkis or grumpkies in the Polish form, gołąbki. You can find recipes for galumpkies or gołąbki on the internet, including ones from celebrity chefs Tyler Florence (who also can't pronounce the dish) and (Fall River's own) Emeril Lagasse

Grumpkies is a bit more obscure, or it least that's how it looks from a Google search. I found that at least two people have posted their recipes for grumpkies. I don't know if this word is specific to the Northeast, but my mother is clearly not the only one who uses it. A woman named Cara writing on the web posted her recipe on facebook and discovered that her friends had the same names and more for these little pockets of cabbage, beef, and rice. 

Whether you say galumpkis, grumpkies, gowumpkies, or gołąbki, I think we're all talking about basically the same dish.

Then I wondered how my Irish-American great-grandmother came to make "great grumpkies."

From what I could piece together from my mother, it has something to do with the Polish population of Taunton, Massachusetts. As a kid my mother had lots of Polish classmates and ate grumpkies at their homes after school quite often. She wasn't the only one with Polish pals. I don't know if my great-grandmother had Polish friends, but her daughter, my great-aunt, used to attend the "quick mass" at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church on Bay St. in Taunton, which had loyal Polish-American parishioners. She also loved Holy Rosary's annual Polish festival with the wonderful food made by the Polish-American women of the parish. Grumpkies was one of their dishes.

Perhaps my great-grandmother was inspired by these women to make grumpkies for her own family.
Holy Rosary is not far from what was my great-grandmother's more Irish-American parish, St. Mary's, located near Broadway in St. Mary's Square. So, perhaps she visited the festival. Or, maybe her daughter went to the festival and begged her mother to make grumpkies. It could have been that some of the older women making food at the festival were my great-grandmother's friends, as members of both parishes probably lived in the overlapping neighborhoods around Broadway and Bay Street. Hard to say, but I think the short distance between St. Mary's Church and Holy Rosary had something to do with her acquiring this recipe.

The festival used to take place at a pavilion in "Cabbage Hill," which later became the site of the former Pepper Pot restaurant. Cabbage Hill was the name of the Polish neighborhood, but my mother remembers that the wooded area around the pavilion was called Cabbage Hill and that members of Holy Rosary and others would gather there to polka and to eat Polish food during the festival.

It's really nice to be able to put this recipe into some local contexts.  It also reminds me of something that I recently learned about how people from the South Coast region of Massachusetts, including myself, talk about ground beef. I recently picked up a great cookbook by Brooke Dojny called New England Home Cooking. It references a May 1997 South Coast Insider article that notes South Coasters' tendencies to refer to ground beef not as "hamburger" but as "hamburg." My great-grandmother did the same in the recipe.  Not all of Taunton is part of the South Coast, but close enough. 

I'd never thought about it before, but I rarely use the word hamburger.  "I'll have a hamburg." "Pick up some hamburg for dinner." My mother and I speak the same language after all. 

Pass the pierogies, folks, because I haven't even wrapped the hamburg in cabbage yet. This post's a long one.  

So, I after I made the rice, I started by prepping the cabbage head.  I parboiled it, cooled it, and peeled off leaves one by one.  Then it was time to cut pieces of salt pork and to create the hamburg, rice, onion, and egg mixture.
With everything ready, I filled each leaf with about a quarter cup or so of the hamburg mixture and a piece of salt pork.  (The salt pork in the photo is probably twice larger than necessary.) I folded the leaf over the mixture, making sure to tuck in the bits of leaf from the sides.

All told I put about 19 pieces in the oven.

The results were excellent. Next time, however, I will cover the dish in the oven with foil to prevent the leaves from drying out. I was surprised that I didn't have to add pepper or another spice. The salt pork was enough.  

We ate out little cabbage pockets with sour cream, although most have them with a tomato sauce.  My great-grandmother really did make great grumpkies . . . or galumpkis, or gowumpkies, or gołąbki.  Something like that.


  1. Hi Kate - I grew up in Swansea. We always called them Grumpies, probably because we could not get our tongues around the Polish pronunciation. Anyway I always put mine in a soup pot and cover them with one can of tomato soup, or even just tomato juice- whichever I have on hand then water. If the tomato soup can calls for two cans of water that is what I add. Then I bring them to a boil and then simmer for the afternoon. I try to keep them on the stove for about 3 hours. We always made them with mashed potatoes. Men seem to love this meal. If you cook them, cool and refrigerate overnight and reheat the next day they are much better.

  2. Maybe "grumpkies" really is a regional pronunciation. We might be on to something. I added a tomato sauce to a later batch of grumpkies, and it turned out great. I told my mother about your comment, and she said that her grandmother served grumpkies with a tomato sauce too. So, my great-grandmother just didn't mention that in her recipe. Using an old recipe is always a learning experience.

  3. Hi Kate
    Thank you for the recipe post.Made me think of my grandma and mother.When i was growing up we called them cabbage rolls.My grandparents were polish but only spoke it if they didnt want us kids to know what they were talking about.But the countries around poland all had differnt names for golabki and peirogi. We had our cabbage rolls with tomatoe soup in a pot cooked all afternoon. Thanks again for the recipe post now i can make them too

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  5. My Grandmother called them by 2 names ... Grumpkies (Polish) & Halupkies (Russian & regional area). I grew up with Dad being of Polish decent; but later I was told they were actually Solvakian (sp) - his heritage was switched because at the time Solvakia didn't exist it was part of the USSR.
    I think what it's called it depends on where your family originally came from but the recipes seem to be the same!!