Zeppelins are large dumplings made of potato dough, stuffed with (usually) meat and generously drowned in rich creamy bacon gravy. Yes, millions of calories per serving - but who counts when it is sooo good!
To make cepelinai from scratch, allow yourself 2-3 hours (or more if you plan to grate the potatoes manually).
And here is the recipe:
- 7 lbs / 3 kg Russet potatoes
- 1 pill of vitamin C (to prevent grated potatoes from discoloration)
- 2 tsps salt
- 6 oz / 200 g ground pork
- 6 oz / 200 g ground beef
- 1 medium (3 oz / 100 g) onion, chopped
- 2 tsps salt
- Pepper to taste
- 6 oz / 200 g country bacon, diced
- 2 large (1 lb / 450 g) onions, chopped
- Oil for frying
- 1 cup / 250 ml sour cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Peel the potatoes. Set aside 5/6 of all potatoes. Place the remaining 1/6 of the potatoes into a pot, cover with water, add a pinch of salt and boil until soft (about 30 minutes). Drain, mash with a potato masher, and set aside to cool.
2. Crush the vitamin C pill on a chopping board with a blade of a chef’s knife and place in a large mixing bowl. Vitamin C is acidic and will prevent grated potatoes from discoloration (otherwise they turn dark very quickly when grated).
3. Grate the remaining 5/6 raw potatoes with an electric or manual potato grater (the fine, prickly side of the box grater) into the bowl containing the vitamin C. Mix from time to time while grating, so that the potatoes do not turn dark.
4. Place part of the grated potatoes into a cheesecloth and squeeze well until the potatoes are barely moist. Reserve the potato juice in a bowl. Repeat with the rest of the grated potatoes.
5. Once all potatoes are juiced, slowly pour away the potato juice from the bowl. There will be a layer of potato starch settled on the bottom of the bow;.
6. Knead the potato starch with the juice grated potatoes and with the mashed boiled potatoes until well combined. Add 2 tsps of salt while kneading.
7. For the filling, combine the ground beef, pork, chopped onions, pepper and salt. Mix well.
8. Fill a large 10 quart / 8 litre stockpot with water up to 2/3 of volume. Add 1 tbsp of salt. Set to high heat and bring to boil.
9. While the water is coming to boil, take a lump (the size of a tennis ball) of the potato dough and flatten in your hands. Take a small lump (the size of a ping-pong ball) of the prepared meat filling and put on top. Fold the potato dough on top and press the edges to seal the dumpling into a smooth shape of a zeppelin. Make sure it is well sealed; otherwise zeppelins may open up during boiling. Repeat with the remaining dough and meat.
10. Once the water comes to boil, reduce the heat to medium and carefully lower the zeppelins into the boiling water.
11. Boil for 15-20 minutes until the meat inside is cooked through. Carefully remove the zeppelins from the pot with a slotted spoon.
12. While the zeppelins are boiling, prepare the gravy. Add the diced bacon and chopped onions into a large frying pan and sauté on medium heat for 5-10 minutes until grease is released from the bacon and onions are translucent and soft. If the bacon is lean, you may need to add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil or lard.
13. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the sour cream, mix well and turn the heat off. Thin the gravy with hot water or chicken stock if needed.
14. Serve the zeppelins generously topped with the gravy.
My mouth is watering already - I'm looking forward to the Christmas day, when we will have cepelinai for lunch!
Guide to Zeppelins
For a more detailed discussion of ingredients, techniques and step-by-step photographed instructions to zeppelin preparation refer to this book from Step-by-Step Lithuanian Recipes series:
Zeppelins by Milda Brighton
Available in Kindle store: