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A Hunter's Holiday: How To Make Elk And Wild Rice Cabbage Rolls

Photo of a blue plate with a colorful meal.
Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau
Halupkis are an eastern European cabbage roll. Hunter Tom Healy makes his with wild-harvested rice and elk.

The holidays often mean Christmas hams, mulled wine and potato latkes. But in the Mountain West, our food occasionally comes from the forest and not the grocery store. Tom Healy is a hunter living in the small town of Wisdom, Montana. This holiday season, he tried a gamey twist on traditional, eastern European cabbage rolls, called halupkis. Check out his recipe below. 

Photo of a man cooking over a pot outside.
Credit Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau
It might be in the single digits, but that doesn't stop hunter Tom Healy from cooking halupkis on a camp stove outside his home in Wisdom, Montana.


1 cup uncooked wild rice

3 1/2 cup water 

1 red bell pepper, chopped fine

1 medium onion – chopped fine

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp butter

1 lb. ground or diced venison

1/2 cup chopped dill pickles (plus more for garnish)

1/2 cup chopped parsley (plus more for garnish)

1 tsp Chinese five spice

1/4 tsp salt

8 to 10 large cabbage leaves (savoy or napa cabbage make for nice presentation and are pliable without blanching)

1 cup game, beef or vegetable Stock

Shredded parmesan cheese and crème fraiche or sour cream for garnish


Bring the wild rice to a boil then let simmer until done. Drain excess water. 

Caramelize the pepper and onion in butter in a cast iron skillet on low to medium heat. Add the meat and garlic and cook until the meat is done.

Stir in the Chinese five spice, salt, chopped parsley and chopped dill pickles.

Stir in half of the cooked wild rice and set to the side.

In a four to six quart dutch oven, place the remaining wild rice and one cup of stock.

Wrap individual cabbage leaves around ¼ – 1/3 cup of the mixture and place on top of the rice in the Dutch oven. (Thicker cabbage leaves may need to be steamed or blanched in boiling water to make pliable.)

Spread the remaining meat mixture around on top of and between the cabbage rolls.

Cover and cook on medium until it steams, then turn down to low and simmer off any remaining liquid. 

Garnish with chopped parsley, chopped pickles, crushed black pepper, grated Parmesan and crème fraiche or sour cream.

Nate Hegyi is the Utah reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at KUER. He covers federal land management agencies, indigenous issues, and the environment. Before arriving in Salt Lake City, Nate worked at Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio, and was an intern with NPR's Morning Edition. He received a master's in journalism from the University of Montana.
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