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Sweet & Sour Stuffed Cabbage - Where in Manhattan?

d
Dena Nov 20, 2000 12:12 PM

Does anybody know where to find real, old-fashioned sweet & sour stuffed cabbage like my Jewish Lithuanian grandma used to make? Or have a recipe? It involved brown sguar and sour salts and, I think, sauerkraut. And the stuffing was ground beef with rice and maybe raisins.

I made the mistake of ordering at Christine's, the Polish restaurant on lower First Avenue, and it was made with cinnamon! Oy.

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    Allan Evans Nov 20, 2000 02:31 PM

    You might be from Southern Lithuanian background, explaining the tendency towards the sweet in stuffed cabbage (Polish influence). Northerners like us had it totally sour but delicately so. Nowhere is this to be found! But. . . the closest would be at Mocca, a Hungarian restaurant on 2nd Avenue and 83rd St. It has paprika and the flavor of petit sale (smoked hocks and the like) but will make you equally happy if you can forgo the sweet tinge.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Allan Evans
      d
      Dena Nov 20, 2000 03:32 PM

      Allan, I'd forgotten about Mocha. Of course, it's really a completely different place than the one we used to go to for great breakfasts, back in the late 60s, early 70s. But you just might have something there.

      As to whether it was authentically Lithuanian -- probably not. My grandmother came here in her teens and, more than likely, learned to make this from a neighbor. So I'll bet her original dish was Hungarian, rather than Polish.

      1. re: Dena
        a
        Allan Evans Nov 20, 2000 03:51 PM

        Tragically I was an avid blues player, practicing finger-picking for hours, while two ladies of my father's generation were alive and making stuffed cabbage on a level worthy of sacrificng all of France for one plate. Such balance, delicacy. . . any sweetness may have been the presence (not dominating in any way) of a few desultory raisins. But on the whole, the sauce was light brown. They are gone now. So many books on Jewish culture, talmud and so on. . . but never were there attempts to capture the culinary heights. Now it is a bit too late.

    2. s
      Steven Stern Nov 20, 2000 06:03 PM

      Normally, this isn't something I would recommend, but since it connects up so nicely with another thread...

      The stuffed cabbage happens to be the only thing I like at Odessa (other than hanging out in the bar area and having drinks). It tastes just like -my- grandmother's, but since she wasn't the best cook in the world, caveat eater.

      1. r
        Ruby Nov 20, 2000 08:11 PM

        This is a recipe I'd copied years ago from a book called "How to Cook Like a Jewish Mother" - it's pretty good. Ruby

        2 Heads Cabbage
        2 lbs. Ground Round
        salt & pepper to taste
        Raisins – small box
        1 slightly beaten egg
        1 large chopped onion
        1 cup pre-cooked white rice

        1 32 oz. can whole tomatoes
        lemon juice from 1 lemon
        Brown sugar – ½ cup
        Dried bay leaf – 2 leaves
        4 tbs. cider vinegar
        1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste

        Carefully remove the large cabbage outer leaves. Put cabbage in boiling water and cook covered for 5 minutes.

        Drain well, then boil smaller leaves for sauce (below).

        Meat filling: Mix together – Meat, salt & pepper, half the raisins, egg,
        half the chopped onion, and rice.

        Sauce: Mix together – whole tomatoes, lemon juice, brown sugar, small cabbage leaves, salt & pepper, rest of chopped onion, bay leaves, rest of raisins, cider vinegar.

        Put small amount of meat mixture in each Cabbage Leaf. Fold and wrap tightly. Place seam down in a large empty pot. Stack rolls.

        Pour sauce mixture over the rolls.

        Simmer slowly, partially covered, over medium/low flame for about 3 hours, basting rolls with sauce occasionally. Add Tomato Paste when/if sauce gets watery.

        Makes 16 yummy rolls.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ruby
          d
          Dena Nov 21, 2000 08:30 AM

          Thanks for the stuffed cabbage recipe, Ruby. Looks good. I suppose the lemon juice and cider vinegar stand in for the sour salts I remember my grandmother & mother using. I may give this a try over the weekend and I'll report back.

          As to matzoh brie, its preparation and what to top it with. Our family method has always been to run the matzohs under the faucet for a moment, then break up them up into a bowl in which eggs have been lightly beaten. (One sheet of matzoh to two eggs per person.) Then lightly scramble in butter with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Toppings were always up to the individual - some used sour cream or apple sauce. My preference is still to spoon a small mound of sugar on my plate, sprinkle a bit more salt over the matzoh brie and then dip each forkful into a tiny bit of sugar. My husband, not Jewish, is appalled by this practice - he's a straight salt and pepper guy.

        2. j
          Jill Rovitzky Black Nov 26, 2000 05:41 PM

          It may be worth checking out the Second Ave. Deli. I haven't been there in years, but they used to have great stuffed cabbage, albeit a bit too sweet for my Russian-Jewish taste.

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