Julie's Auntie Barbara (Barbara Lapp)
Food Editor's Notes:
When my colleague suggested a recipe for stuffed cabbage, I immediately agreed, as stuffed cabbage is a traditional Jewish dish often served during Sukkot. It is much-loved, but suffers from the misconception that it is hard to make, and thus is not served very often, except by those for whom traditional Jewish foods reign supreme, never to be supplanted by more modern options, such as turkey breast and poached salmon. Stuffed cabbage can be made in advance, in fact, should be made in advance, as its flavor is enhanced with some time spent in the refrigerator or freezer. That makes it a wonderful, easy dish for entertaining, whether in the Sukkah or in your own dining room any time of year.
Julie's Auntie Barbara makes a mean stuffed cabbage, or meat rolled in cabbage as she refers to it. Auntie Barbara is of the school of cooks who don't usually use written recipes for their traditional dishes, but rather go by habit and taste and feel, and improvise based on what ingredients are on hand and how much time there is to get the job done. This recipe, I have found, is very forgiving. I had trouble peeling the cabbage leaves intact, I used dark brown sugar instead of granulated light brown sugar, I threw in some grated onion, and I guessed at the amounts of salt, pepper, sugar, and raisins. The result was still delicious. When the finished product came out of the oven, never mind that it was 10:30 in the morning, Julie and I decided we were in dire need of a taste test.
2 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 large heads of cabbage (about 30 large leaves)
[Hint: Freeze cabbage for a few hours, then let defrost overnight or soak in hot water before using; the leaves peel off easier.]
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grated onion (optional)
Large handful of long grain rice (not Minute Rice), uncooked.
[Note: a large handful probably equals 1/2 cup]
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup water
2 cans condensed tomato soup
2 large serving spoons of granulated light brown sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
About 10 ginger snaps, crushed
1 carrot, cut up
Handful of raisins (optional)
You will need a large pot for boiling the cabbage leaves, a pressure cooker or a large casserole, and a large roasting pan for baking the cabbage rolls.
1. Peel leaves off the cabbage heads, parboil for 10-15 minutes until soft, and set on clean dish towels to drain and cool.
2. Thoroughly mix the meat, rice, salt, pepper, and grated onion if desired.
3. Put a "good" tablespoon of meat in each leaf at the base of the rib. Fold over the meat, fold the sides in to the center, and roll up the leaf.
4. Dice the large onion, and place in the bottom of a pressure cooker. Add 1/2 cup water and the cabbage rolls. Bring to pressure and cook with regulator shaking gently for 40 minutes. If you are not using a pressure cooker, cook the rolls with the onion and water on the stove, in a tightly covered casserole, on low heat for two hours.
5. Put the cooked rolls in a single layer in a roasting pan.
6. Mix up the tomato soup, the brown sugar, and the lemon juice. Add the crushed ginger snaps and carrot and the raisins if desired. You may also add some of the cooking liquid from the pressure cooker or casserole (no onions) if you want a more liquid sauce.
7. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Check periodically to see if basting is necessary.
8. Cool the rolls and refrigerate or freeze. If freezing, defrost and add a little water before reheating.
This makes 30-32 small rolls, which will go very quickly!
Meat Rolled in Cabbage