Cepelinai (singular - cepelinas) or Didžkukuliai are a Lithuanian national dish. They are a type of dumpling made from grated potatoes and usually containing ground meat, although sometimes dry cottage cheese (curd) is used instead.
So named because their shape resembles that of a Zeppelin airship, cepelinai are typically around 10–20 cm long, although the size depends on where they are made: in the western counties of Lithuania cepelinai are made bigger than in the east.
After boiling, the cepelinai are served with sour cream sauce or pork rind pieces (crackling).
- 1 kg uncooked potatoes
- 3 or 4 boiled potatoes
- ground beef, or a combination of ground beef and ground pork
for meatless cepelinai:
- dry cottage cheese (curd) or mushrooms can be used.
Peel and grate raw potatoes, then squeeze out excess liquid from them through a cheesecloth. Let starch
settle to the bottom of the liquid, then pour the liquid off and add the starch back to the potatoes. Peel and mash the boiled potatoes, then add them to the grated ones. Add a dash of salt and knead the mass well.
Take approximately egg-sized pieces of this mixture and form into patties. Place spoonfuls of the previously prepared filling into the center of the patties. Most often a filling is made from ground beef, dry cottage cheese or mushrooms with salt and spices. Close the patties around the filling and form them into ovoid shapes.
Place the cepelinai in a salted boiling water and cook for approximately 30 minutes. Carefully stir the pot so that cepelinai do not stick to the bottom. Cepelinai are eaten with bacon, or melted sour cream and butter sauce. This dish is very filling, and was traditionally only served for guests or during heavy work seasons.
Challenges and Techniques
Grating the potatoes
- Use the smallest side of the grater, i.e., the one which looks like circular metal dimples. This will result in a very even, consistent texture, which looks somewhat like applesauce before the potato liquid is removed.
- Do not use the large or small shredders on a typical grater; the texture will be incorrect and will not hold together
- Consider adding crushed vitamin C (ascorbic acid) tablets or vitamin C powder to the raw potato mixture early in the grating process to avoid color change and inhibit oxidation
- use a potato ricer to "mash" the boiled potatoes
Boiling the cepelinai
One of the most common problems is the potato wrapper dissolving once the cepelinai are added to the boiling water. Some or all of the following techniques can be combined to keep the potato wrapper together and obtain the proper result:
- make sure that as much liquid as possible has been squeezed out of the raw potato mixture
- use high-starch potatoes, such as russet or Idaho potatoes. Yellow (such as Bintje or Yukon Gold) may be acceptable. Waxy, low-starch potatoes (such as red potatoes) are not recommended. In general, large, older potatoes will contain more starch than small, young/new potatoes.
- add extra potato starch to the potato mixture. This may be necessary if you cannot find potatoes that are sufficiently high in starch. Other starch (such as cornstarch) may be used if potato starch is not available.
- add one egg as a binder to the potato mixture. This is non-traditional, but may help in certain cases.
- add all-purpose wheat flour as a binder to the potato mixture. This is non-traditional, but may help in certain cases.
- reduce heat of water just before adding cepelinai from a rolling boil to a simmer
- lower cepelinai carefully into the boiling water using a slotted spoon or bamboo spider
- keep cepelinai in water at a simmer
- stir the cepelinai very gently