In our family, birthdays=food.
Every year for my Mom’s birthday, Gran would make cabbage rolls. Every year, it was a birthday treat she looked forward to. When Gran passed away, Mom decided that they were far too much work for a meal that the rest of her family would complain about and refuse to eat. So that was then end of them for a little while. Dad would try and bring her home ones from the store every now and then, but they never compared to her moms.
About 6 years ago, when I was looking for a birthday gift to get Mom, she asked me to make her cabbage rolls, then told me how to make them. That first year was a disaster. I didn’t bake them quite long enough, made them too thick and left the rinds in the leaves. Undeterred, she asked for them the following year, and gave me a few more pointers. The following year she asked me to make a few more so she could freeze some to enjoy throughout the year. Then Mr. Ginge caught on, and started dropping not-so-subtle hints that he wanted in on the cabbage rolls too. So it’s stuck. Every year, the week of my Mom’s birthday, I pick a day and it becomes Cabbage Roll Day.
I will warn you, this truly does require a whole day, or if you aren’t up for that, then a day for rolling and a day for baking. Try and pick a cooler day because it’s hot work, and believe me, since the last week of August isn’t always cool, it’s no fun to make these when it is hotter than hell in the kitchen . As I mentioned, these freeze and reheat beautifully, and the recipe doubles, triples, or ( if you are crazy like me) quadruples wonderfully.
If you’re wondering, that makes approximately 215 cabbage rolls.
Gran’s Cabbage Rolls
makes enough to feed an army.
- 1 – 2 large green cabbages.
- 2 lbs ( about 1 kg) of ground meat. Half beef and half chicken is our favourite.
- 2 1/2 cups uncooked white rice
- 1 tsp each salt and pepper
- 1 1.36 L (46 oz) can of tomato juice
- Find the biggest pot you own, and fill it with water ( I use my canning pot). Peel the outer, rubbery leaves off your cabbage. Remove the core. I do this by carefully slicing diagonally around the core, three times. This makes a triangle around the hard core, which you then should just be able to yank out. Set the pot on the stove, dunk your cabbage into it, cover and let boil. Yes, boiled cabbage will stink up your house, and every member of your family will complain about it, but it is a necessary step. You will want to boil the cabbage until the leaves are tender and the leaves have become translucent.
- While your cabbage boils and smellifies your house, combine the meat, rice, salt and pepper. Smoosh it all together with your hands or a wooden spoon, then set it aside. This will help soften the rice a little bit before it gets baked.
- The outer leaves of the cabbage so cook first, and should peel away from the cabbage easily with some tongs ( if they haven’t already floated off) If they won’t peel away, then carefully lift the cabbage out of the water with a couple of big serving spoons into a big bowl, then carefully peel away the leaves, cutting away some of the core if necessary. When they are still hot, but cool enough to handle, cut away the tough rib. For the larger, outer ribs, cut the leaves in half.
- Scoop out 2-3 tablespoons (or larger if desired) of the meat mixture and roll into a thin sausage shape. Place in on the boiled cabbage leaf, fold both sides over to cover then roll. Place seam side down and pack tightly in a roasting pan (see below), then continue with the remaining leaves, peeling from the cabbage as necessary. If you are finding that the leaves are getting too small or hard to roll, discard the remaining cabbage, and boil a second as above.
- When all of the meat mixture has been used up, heat the oven to 300° F. Pour the tomato juice over the cabbage rolls, just enough to barely cover the top, otherwise it tends to boil over and is murder to clean out of your oven. The juice will thicken up and create a lovely rich sauce.
- Cover them with the lid, then pop them in your oven for 6 hours, making sure to check them every 2 to top up the tomato juice. In the last half an hour remove the lid to brown the tops a bit.
Slow Cooker Alternative
- Prepare the rolls as above. Pour a little of the tomato juice into the bowl of your slow cooker, then pack in the prepare rolls.
- Pour the remaining tomato juice over top, then cook on high for 8 hours. These cabbage rolls will be a lot lighter and will have a much runnier sauce.
Serve with some crusty bread and butter
P.S. Please excuse the terrible photos.