Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed cabbage, otherwise known as cabbage rolls, galumpkis, pigs in a blanket, holubtsi, or whatever you called them in your country of origin or family. According to Wikipedia, cabbage rolls are part of the traditional cuisine of many Central European, Eastern European, and Balkan countries.

Honestly, these were not on my culinary radar until last summer when I first met my boyfriend Brian's family. His darling great-aunt makes these for him every time he visits, and in keeping with tradition brought some over when we arrived. I love anything with cabbage and her stuffed cabbage is really good.

I know, I know, I am nuts for even trying to research, make and write about an heirloom family recipe, but I just had to try. The good news is Brian loved it and for my first attempt proclaimed "even if it was the 10th try it would be good!" That's high enough praise for me.

What about everyone else? Did you grow up eating stuffed cabbage or another family recipe? How have your labor of love recipe re-creation attempts gone?

Here are just a few great posts from other bloggers on cabbage rolls:
Kalyn's Kitchen Cabbage Round-Up
Elise's Pork Stuffed Cabbage Rolls from Simply Recipes
A lighter version of the classic from Cooking with Sean (and Joey)
Töltött Káposzta (Stuffed Cabbage) from Danielle of Habeas Brulee

Stuffed Cabbage:
(makes 2 large casserole dishes, about 30 rolls)

3 large heads of cabbage
3 lbs ground beef (80% lean)
3 large eggs
1 c uncooked white rice
1 large onion, finely minced
Salt and pepper

1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c water
Salt and pepper

Core heads of cabbage and carefully peel off whole leaves (this is maddening and reminiscent of those annoying people who try to open gifts without ripping the paper). Plunge leaves into boiling water until soft enough to roll. Cut out hard white core at the bottom of each leaf to make rolling easier.

Meanwhile, mix beef, rice, eggs, onion and salt (more than you think you'll need) and pepper.

Place whole leaves (the slightly ripped ones work great) on the bottom of 2 large casserole dishes. Next, take a mound of the beef mixture and mold it into a fat little log and place it at the bottom of each leaf. Roll it up like and egg roll or a burrito. Lay down in rows on top of cabbage leaves in the casserole dish. Continue rolling until all meat mixture or cabbage leaves are used, or dishes are full.

At the same time, simmer all sauce ingredients until boiling and slightly reduced. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Pour about half the sauce over the rolls and cover tightly with foil. Save the other half of the sauce for later. Bake covered dishes at 350 for about 1.5 hours or until bubbling, sauce has reduced and they are cooked through.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes, then serve, spooning sauce over top of rolls (unless you are Brian and hate tomato sauce). :)

The extra sauce is for re-heating or in case they dry out while cooking.


Danielle said...

They look tasty to me!

Kalyn said...

Sounds really good. I once had a female cabdriver describe how to make these for me, and I always wished I'd had the sense to write it down. Can't remember where she was from, but I could tell she knew what she was doing!

Terry B said...

I mostly had to overcome most of the cooking I grew up with. But my mom used to make a milk gravy for biscuits and gravy that was amazing. I will often wistfully try biscuits and gravy when we're in a pancake house or diner, but it's never the same.

Kirsten said...

Thanks Danielle! I was actually surprised at how good they turned out. :)

Kalyn - Thanks! Your story is too funny. I also had my boyfriend's Aunt describe it to me, and I remember is her saying to add more salt then you need. I mean WHY was I not taking notes??!!??

Hi Terry! I'm smiling re: overcome most of the cooking I grew up with. :)

lululu said...

yummmm...i think i'm gonna try it soon. just 1 question: no need to cook the beef before wrapping?

Kirsten said...

Hi Lululu!

Oddly (I was feeling worried about this too) you don't need to pre-cook the beef because it braises in the cabbage and sauce in the oven and the rice plumps and absorbs liquid while the meat braises gently, making it tender and delicious - also the onions get so soft you would never know they are even there!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Kirsten, my mom used to make this recipe when I was a kid.
They're really common here in Brazil, at least in the South and South-east regions. Many people make this - I don't like it because of the beef but it's huge in many families!

Christine said...

My Grammy (who was Polish) made Galumpki's for us all the time while we were growing up. After she passed, my aunt took over and continues the tradition. Yours look very similar!

Deborah said...

I have had a cabbage roll recipe bookmarked for ages now, but since I have never had them before, I was always a little scared to try. You've just inspired me, though!

Kirsten said...

Hi Patricia! It's interesting that some of the recipes that I always thought were traditional Eastern European recipes are popular in Brazil. I LOVE learning things like that. :)

Christine - I am glad mine at least resemble the true generational recipe outcome!

Deborah, go for it. I totally had to wing it and make it up as I was going along and purposely didn't even tell anyone I was making it for fear it wouldn't turn out good...but I swear it was easy and delicious!! :)

Robin said...

Mmm. These sound wonderful. I've never tried or even thought about stuffed cabbage, although I absolutely love boiled cabbage (is that weird?!). Thanks for helping me discover something new!

Kirsten said...

Thanks Robin! I was with you - always loved cabbage, but had never had it stuffed.

It's easier than I thought...I recommend trying it.

Lis said...

OMG - My absolute favoritest food of all time kinda.. lol I have way too many absolute favoritest foods.. but cabbage rolls are in the top 5 for sure!

Yours look soooo wonderful.. and now that it's 80º outside and firin' up the oven is the last thing I wanna do.. the craving I now have for cabbage rolls (I think my family is the only group of ppl in the world that call them cabbage rolls instead of stuffed cabbage. lol) is going to be worth a sweltering hot kitchen. :D


Kirsten said...

Lis! I wondered if you were a cabbage roll loving girl.

I too call them cabbage rolls and my boyfriend keeps correcting me. :)

If you lived closer I would have made you a dish of them, I already had the oven on, so why not!?

lynmary said...

Your 'golubki' look just like mine! I learned from my Polish mom and am the official cabbage roll maker in our family. The only thing different (not too much) is I used to can my own stewed tomatoes and pour that over the finished cabbage rolls. I am the polish cook in the family and my sister is the polish baker. She makes poppyseed bread over the holidays like Mom used to. Thanks for the "official" recipe. Many people ask me for a recipe and I "just make them".

Kirsten said...

lynmary - I am SOO glad mine look official! I got some recipe feedback from my boyfriend's mom, so next time I may do a few things different, but overall, this recipe was pretty right on. :)

Gumbeaux Gal said...

Hi Kirsten!
Great recipe. I LOVE stuffed cabbage. I grew up in Southern Louisiana in a family that is half German and half French. My mother, her mother before her, and probably her mother's mother, made stuffed cabbage.

Please check out my blog at


Kirsten said...

Hi Gumbeaux!

Thanks for stopping by. Apparently this dish knows no geographic or other boundaries. How cool!

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! My grandma made this dish when I was growing up. I haven't had it in years. The only other ingredient she added to the meat mixture was sauerkraut. Incredible! I'll have to make it this weekend. said...

Quite useful material, much thanks for this article.