If there’s a centerpiece of the Polish Summer Fest, an annual festival in Dayton, it’s the food.
There’s always an orchestra playing polka music, plus Bingo, games of chance and lots of chatter around the picnic tables.
But Old World food is the star of the festival, which this year will be held from 3 to 10 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Polish Picnic Grounds on Needmore Road. Admission is $4 per carload plus extra for food.
The menu always includes cabbage rolls, Polish sausage, cabbage and noodles, pierogies, turtle soup, sauerkraut dishes and more.
Everything is made from scratch by John Lacsko, past president of the Dayton Polish Club, and his wife, Mary.
The Riverside couple used to own a catering business, and they still make homemade sausage for The Amber Rose Restaurant.
Lacsko said the picnic-style festival has been held for at least 50 years, but sadly, the crowds aren’t what they used to be.
“We used to make seven roasters full of cabbage rolls, but now we only do two or three,” he said.
He said the heat of the past couple summers probably diminished the crowd, so if this year’s cooler temperatures continue, the turnout could pick up.
“You just keep the traditions, and hopefully people pick up on them,” he said. “The younger people are starting to.”
STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS
John and Mary Lacsko don’t give out their recipes for the Polish Summer Fest food, but here’s a cabbage roll recipe from Food Network Chef Tyler Florence.
Sweet and sour tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 1/2 quarts crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Splash dry red wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups steamed white rice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large heads green cabbage, about 3 pounds each
To make sauce: Coat a 3-quart saucepan with the oil and place over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar; simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
To make cabbage rolls: Place a skillet over medium heat and coat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Saute onion and garlic about 5 minutes until soft. Stir in tomato paste, a splash of red wine, parsley, and ½ cup of the prepared sweet and sour tomato sauce. Mix to incorporate and remove from heat. Combine ground beef and pork in a large mixing bowl. Add egg, cooked rice and sautéed onion mixture. Use hands to combine filling, then season generously with salt and pepper.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Remove the large, damaged outer leaves from the cabbages and set aside. Cut out the cores of the cabbages with a sharp knife and carefully pull off all remaining leaves, keeping them whole and as undamaged as possible. (Reserve the small leaves for another use.) Blanch the cabbage leaves in the pot of boiling water for 5 minutes or until pliable. Run the leaves under cool water; then lay them out flat for filling. Carefully cut out the center vein from the leaves so they will be easier to roll. Take the reserved outer leaves and lay them in the bottom of a casserole dish, leaving part of the leaves hanging out the sides of the pan (this insulation will prevent the cabbage tolls from burning on the bottom when baked). Use all the good-looking leaves to make cabbage rolls. Put about ½ cup of the meat filling in the center of the cabbage, starting at the stem end. Fold the sides in and roll up the cabbage to enclose the filling. Place cabbage rolls side by side in rows, seam side down, in the casserole pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pour remaining sweet and sour tomato sauce over cabbage rolls. Fold hanging leaves over the top to enclose and keep the moisture in. Drizzle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake for 1 hour until meat is cooked through.
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