There are two kinds of people in this world, those who know and love Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, and those who haven’t tried stuffed cabbage rolls. Either you’ve grown up with your family’s coveted recipe, or you haven’t. If you are among the latter, then you are truly missing out on a nutrient-packed comfort food.
Although their specific origin is lost to the ages, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are most definitely European, probably from the East and certainly from the underprivileged. But don’t let their humble beginnings deter you from their wholesome taste. Recipes for Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are as diverse as the peoples who carried them through generations.
When the meat was scarce during the war, or too expensive after the war, people used grain, usually rice, to stretch the portions. Cabbage has always been inexpensive despite its nutrient punch. The cabbage roll filling is almost always a grain, a meat, some spices and egg to bind it all together. Some recipes call for cooking the ingredients on the stovetop before stuffing the cabbage leaves, others are stuffed raw. Some are then baked in a sauce, still, others are fried. They can be savory or sweet, meaty or vegetarian, hot and spicy, and don’t even get me started on the folding techniques! Although one can create a lot of variety by changing up the meat and the grain, it is the combination of spices that make each region’s and each family’s recipe unique. Well, that and the folding…and the sauce.
The region one’s grandmother came from often determines the choice of sauce. Hungarians and Romanians are partial to gravy made from flour and broth. Every second year, together they hold a Stuffed Cabbage Roll festival, called the Töltött Káposzta Fesztivál, featuring cooking competitions and cabbage roll tasting among regional, folk entertainment. Ukrainians prefer a sweet sauce made with brown sugar and raisins, while Western Europeans bake their Stuffed Cabbage Rolls in tomato sauce. But for all the variety, one thing is always agreed upon: stuffed cabbage rolls always taste better the next day!
Stuffed Cabbage rolls have an unpretentious appeal. They are a simple food, with basic ingredients but the end result is something special.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls were a favorite around my childhood house. Growing up, my Mother often made them, as so many women did, trying to stretch the family budget. The family recipe I’m sharing with you is one of my Mother’s specialties.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Homemade Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
- 2 pounds cabbage blanched
- 1 pound ground chuck
- 1/2 cup onion chopped
- 1/2 cup green bell pepper chopped
- 1/4 cup rice
- 1/4 cup crackers crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 egg
- 4 ounces tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- Clean, core, and boil cabbage until tender but not done. Mix together the water and the tomato sauce. Combine meat, onion, green pepper, rice, crackers, salt, pepper, and egg and 1/4 of the tomato sauce. Spoon mixture into leaves, roll and place in deep baking pan. Pour remaining juice over roils sprinkle with sugar and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
Image by irrational cat