Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are the first memory of my grandmother’s cooking. The scent of freshly steamed cabbage and the sweet smell of the sauce cooking reminds me of my childhood and family meals.
Stuffed cabbage rolls consist of meat, usually beef, but pork and lamb may be substituted too. Meat fillings can be found in traditional dishes, originating in Eastern Europe, but also familiar to Western Asia, Central and Northern Europe and the Balkans as well.
The cabbage leaves, after being stuffed and steamed, are baked and simmered, until tender, in a sweet and tangy sauce. My mother freezes the cabbage first before cooking, and the leaves become pliable and much easier to roll. The meat can be combined with grains, most commonly rice, but you can also use barley or quinoa.
The stuffed cabbage rolls are the epitome of Jewish cuisine; The Polish call them “golabki,” meaning “little pigeons.”
Here is a traditional, old fashion, comfort food recipe.
One large head of cabbage
2 pounds of lean ground beef
One medium onion, grated or minced
Two garlic cloves, minced
Two teaspoons salt
One teaspoon black pepper
½ cup raw long-grain white rice
Two tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
One clove garlic, finely chopped
One medium onion, chopped (medium dice)
Two 15 ounce cans tomato sauce
¼ to ¾ cup light brown sugar
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the cabbage into the boiling water until the leaves are soft. (my mother skips this step and freezes the leaves – they become very pliable and easy to work.
Mix the lean ground beef with the eggs, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and the rice. Place the meat filling in the center of the cabbage leaf and roll.
Over medium heat, melt the butter, then sauté the second onion. Add the garlic, saute for two minutes.
Add the tomato sauce, brown sugar, salt, and stir. Increase the heat until it comes to a boil, and then lower it and simmer.
Put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of your pan. Place the cabbage rolls, seam side down, on top of sauce. Top the cabbage rolls with the remaining sauce and cover the whole pan with foil. Bake for 2 hours in a preheated 350F oven.
Modern, Easy “Stuffed Cabbage Roll Recipe”
The following is a modern, quicker, simple recipe, and just as delicious as the traditional. Quite honestly, the taste is so close you won’t know the difference. I don’t roll the cabbage, I just cut it into big pieces and steam the leaves until tender, in onion soup mix and water. You can roll them if you want to have a more palatable look, either way, it tastes the same.
One head of cabbage
1-2 packages of prepared meatballs
Two jars of chili sauce (found at the grocery store near the catsup
Two cans of cranberry sauce (I prefer the jellied, but you can use the whole berries too)
1/4 cup of brown sugar (I use brown sugar twin as a less calorie substitute)
Steam the lettuce, put in Dutch oven or crock pot. Add the meatballs. Combine the chili sauce, cranberry sauce, brown sugar, until completed mixed. Pou mixture over the cabbage and the meatballs, stir. Cook for 2 hours in a Dutch over or 4-5 hours in a crock pot. Serve warm