Cabbage pie is primarily a Russian invention, but it can be found in different versions as far west as Greece. Though traditionally prepared as a vegetarian meal to celebrate the Russian cabbage-harvest festival of Kapustnik, which literally translates to "cabbage pie," the filling can be crammed with sausage or ground beef too. In total, it is loaded with often-brined cabbage, onion, carrot and hard-boiled egg, then wrapped in a pie crust that is baked until flaky and brown.
The dough for the cabbage pie crust can be bought pre-made at stores. A phyllo-style dough will work best. If chefs choose to make their own, they do so with a combination of flour, oil, butter, water and equal parts salt and sugar. A pie dough recipe should be consulted for the exact measurements.
After the dough has been stretched across the bottom of a greased pie pan, it is then time to make the filling. This involves sauteing chopped onions, carrots and cabbage in a hot oiled skillet until caramelized. Many chefs use pickled cabbage leftover from making sauerkraut. Hard-boiled eggs should be cooking simultaneously in another pot of boiling water, since they are another traditional part of cabbage pie. After the eggs are cut into chunks, they are added to the vegetables, along with some some salt, pepper, tarragon, basil, marjoram and, on occasion, some sour cream and tomato paste. Mushrooms are another common addition.
When the vegetables are nearly cooked through, they are poured into the pie pan, then covered with another rolled-out circle of dough. Many chefs recommend baking the cabbage pie at two different temperatures. They start at 350°F (about 180°C) for a half-hour, and then lower the heat to about 250°F (about 120°C) for another 20 to 30 minutes. The resulting pie should have a deep brown, crusty-but-not-burnt shell.
The Russian festival of Kapustnik is not just all about the cabbage pie. It is an excuse for a range of cultural activities, from theater productions to town dances. Often, meat eaters are included with sausage or ground beef being added to the pies.
Greece has long been the home of another type of cabbage pie. That country's version includes Greece's signature cheese, feta. It also substitutes many of the Russian seasonings with merely shredded dill and one or several varieties of native olives — pitted, of course, for safety's sake.