William Saroyan

Recipe Corner: Bitlis Tutoo from Breaking Bread with William Saroyan


Bitlis Tutoo (Sour Cabbage Stew)*

Tutoo is an old recipe from the Bitlis and Mush (Mus) regions in Turkey. It is thought by historians to have been brought by the French Crusaders, who later married Armenian women and stayed in the Bitlis region. Tutoo means sour in Armenian, and the stew can live up to its name. It includes both fermented cabbage and the brine used to pickle the cabbage. Most Armenian cookbooks and on-line recipes call for at least a 10-day fermentation period.


1 pound lamb necks or stew meat (or a little more)

1-2 large onions, halved and sliced

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8 cups fermented cabbage, with its own juice

3/4 cup dzedzads (whole wheat gorghod, peeled wheat), found in Middle Eastern stores

1 8-oz. can tomato sauce

2-3 cups of water

Juice of 1 or 2 large lemons (add more for tart flavor)

Crushed dried basil and paprika or cayenne pepper, optional




To ferment cabbage:


3 large heads cabbage, chopped in 1-inch squares

Pickling salt, not iodized

1/4 cup dzedzads

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.

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 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.

*This updated recipe is courtesy of Queenie Dardarian, A Hundred Years and Still Cooking, the First Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno (FAPC) Fidelis Women’s Society Centennial recipe collection.

Serves 6.

By Janice Stevens and Pat Hunter, published by Heliograph Publishing.

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Janice Stevens

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Breaking Bread with William Saroyan

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