Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
Servings: 12-16 stuffed cabbage leaves
Prep Time: 1 Hour
Cook Time: 2 ~ 2-1/2 Hours
1 large green cabbage (3.5-4 lbs.)
1 lb ground beef, ground chicken, ground pork/bacon or a mixture
1 cup cooked long grain rice, white or brown
1med onion, finely minced
2 tbsp fresh dill, minced
1 tbsp paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp tumeric
2 tsp mustard powder, divided
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can (48 oz) tomato juice
1 can (28 oz) diced or crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
2 tbsp brown sugar (or more to taste)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup stock or water
Optional: sour cream
Rinse the cabbage clean, then immerse it in a large pot of boiling water and cook it for 4-5 minutes until leaves are soft and pliable, but not overly soft.
Drain the cabbage in a colander and let it sit until cool enough to handle.
Alternatively, you can freeze the cabbage overnight (or up to 3 days). Defrost the cabbage for about three hours. This will make the leaves pliable in the same way that parboiling does.
Prepare your filling. In a bowl, mix together ground meat, cooked rice, minced onion, minced dill, paprika, garlic, celery seed, tumeric 1 tsp mustard powder, cayenne pepper, egg, salt and pepper to taste. I use about 1 ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper—kosher meat needs less salt.
To test the seasoning of the meat, you can fry up a small portion in a skillet or pop it in the microwave till it’s thoroughly cooked, then taste it. It’s easy to under-season the filling, so err on the side of adding extra pepper and salt.
Tip: You can make this filling ahead and refrigerate a few hours to overnight; this will allow the flavors to marinate and make it firmer and easier to handle.
Peel off the large cabbage leaves from the head of cabbage, keeping only the leaves that are whole/intact and big enough to stuff. Chop up the remaining smaller leaves along with the core of the cabbage. Reserve.
Place your large leaves on a cutting board.
Take a leaf and pat it dry with a paper towel.
Shave down the tough, thick part of the stem at the base of each leaf using a paring knife, being careful not to cut through the leaf itself. Repeat process for the remaining leaves.
Fold the base of the leaf up and over the filling till it’s completely covered.
Fold the left edge of the leaf inward. Leave the right side of the leaf open.
Continue rolling the leaf till it’s completely rolled up (with the right end still loose/open).
Tuck the loose end of the leaf inward, pushing it into the filled center of the leaf.
This will create a neat package that has a better chance of holding together in the pot.
Continue the process for the remaining leaves.
Depending on how many useable leaves your cabbage has, you may find you have some leftover filling. Simply roll that filling into meatballs; you can place them into the pot along with the stuffed leaves, so you don’t waste anything.
In a small saucepan, combine the tomato juice with the diced or crushed tomatoes, lemon juice, brown sugar, tomato paste, garlic and mustard powder. Warm up over medium heat till bubbly and fragrant. Taste the sauce; season with salt and pepper and more brown sugar or lemon, if desired.
Put remaining chopped cabbage leaves/core into the bottom of a roasting pan. Spread it out to create an even layer, then pour ½ cup of broth or water over the top of the leaves.
Place half of the stuffed cabbage leaves on top of the leaves.
Pour 1/3 of the warmed tomato sauce over the first layer of stuffed cabbage leaves.
Put another layer of stuffed leaves on top…
and top with the rest of the sauce.
Cook in 350º oven for 2-2 ½ hours till the thickest parts of the leaves are tender. Check periodically to make sure it’s not boiling too vigorously—this can make the leaves fall apart. A slow, even simmer works best.
When finished cooking, remove the stuffed cabbage leaves from the pot carefully with tongs. Top the stuffed cabbage with some of the sauce and a very generous sprinkle of black pepper. Serve hot. Leaves can be refrigerated for 4-5 days or frozen and reheated before serving.
Optional: Top with a spoon of sour cream
Being as my mom cannot tolerate seasonings very well I made a huge batch, 4 lb of ground beef, 1 lb of bacon (cut small), 2 heads of cabbage and the same amount of seasonings listed above