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Bitlis Tutoo (Sour Cabbage Stew) from 'Breaking Bread with William Saroyan'

Tutoo means 'sour' in Armenian and the stew lives up to its name. This is an old recipe which includes both fermented cabbage and the brine used to pickle the cabbage.
Prep Time 10 d 30 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 10 d 4 hrs 30 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 6


  • 1 lb. lamb necks or stew meat (a little more meat never hurts!)
  • 1-2 large onions (halved and sliced)
  • 8 cups fermented cabbage (with its own juice (See below for instructions))
  • ¾ cup dzedzads (shelled whole grain wheat - or gorghod) (sold in Middle Eastern stores)
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 1-2 large lemons (juiced (or more for more tartness))
  • Crushed dried basil and paprika or cayenne pepper, measured to taste (optional)

Preparation to ferment cabbage

  • 3 large cabbage heads (chopped in 1-inch squares)
  • Pickling salt (not iodized)
  • ¼ cup dzedzads (shelled whole grain wheat - or gorghod)
  • 4 quarts water


For the fermenting

  • Have ready a large crock or 1-gallon glass jar for fermenting cabbage. 
  • Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, adding salt to taste. Let it cool to tepid temperature.
  • Rinse and add 1/4 cup dzedzads to the bottom of the crock or glass jar.  Add cut cabbage to the container, and cover with water to cover top. Stir and cover container partially, leaving an opening for stirring. Loosely cap the jar. Retain 1 cup of brine to add to the jar during fermentation to keep the cabbage covered with liquid.
  • Place jar on a plate (in case your fermentation bubbles over) and store out of direct sunlight in your kitchen.
  • Stir thoroughly to help release gases caused by fermentation for once or twice a day for 10 to 21 days (or longer). 
  • After cabbage has fermented, refrigerate tutoo by transferring it to large glass jars or other covered containers.

Preparation for the stew

  • In a large kettle or a heavy enameled 7-quart pot, cover lamb meat with some cabbage water and cook for one hour. Skim off any impurities. After one hour, remove the bones.
  • Rinse and add the 3/4 cup dzedzads to the pot. Add onions, cabbage, tomato sauce, water, lemon juice, basil, paprika or cayenne pepper (if using), and bring back to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about two hours or until lamb is very tender.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!