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Stuffed Cabbage -- How Do You Season Yours?

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I'm making stuffed cabbage and want to braise it in a sweet & sour liquid. I've made it in the past using tomato sauce, sugar and lemon juice, but I haven't been thrilled with it. I've heard of using sour salt instead of lemon juice, but I have no idea how to use sour salt in a recipe. I'm looking for a recipe with an eastern European flavor, kind of like my Bubbie might have made. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Also, for how long should it braise in the oven? Thanks!

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  1. My Nana made the best stuffed cabbage ever. She used vinegar, and believe it or not, crushed up ginger snap cookies. I wondered if anyone else had heard of this, so I Googled and guess what..it is not that odd after all!

    1. "Sour salt", which is not actually a salt at all, it's citric acid. You'll find it listed as an ingredient in a lot of commercial products where a hint of acidity (sourness) is desired. I season my stuffed cabbage rolls primarily by seasoning the meat. The only seasoning I use for the remainder of the items in the recipe include tomatoes, tomato sauce, a little white vinegar, a VERY SMALL amount of sugar, and coarsely chopped onions that I lay on top of the cabbage rolls as they steam.

      1. I use diced onion and parsley in the meat mixture along with sea salt and a small can of tomato sauce.

        My grandmother simmered them in sauerkraut with diced tomatoes mixed in. They are heavenly.

        I've also had them with a paprika sauce over them. It was wonderful, but I don't have a recipe unfortunately.

        1. The sweet and sour taste that I like is either with white vinegar and brown sugar, or white vinegar and ginger snaps. The latter I prefer with sauerbraten. The former I think would be nice with stuffed cabbage.

          1. Lots of sauerkraut and some good fresh Hungarian paprika and sometimes garlic slivers in the tomato sauce and season the meat/rice mixture with finely chopped onion, salt, pepper and paprika. I bring it to a simmer on the stovetop and then braise in a 375 oven for at least 45 minutes then check the internal temp of the rolls with a meat thermometer -- you want to get it to about 150 or higher. Always better the second night, reheated.

            Here are some links to previous highly informative stuffed cabbage threads:

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/281310

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/282215

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/316234

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/336303

            1 Reply
            1. re: GretchenS

              Thanks so much for your ideas and for the helpful links. I'm inclined to try something new (to me) that I saw on one of the links. I'm going to combine tomato sauce and whole canned cranberry sauce for the sweet/sour flavor. I'll let you know how it turns out.

            2. I use S&P, chopped garlic, thyme and plenty of ground caraway.

              Sweet paprika is always a natural with cabbage.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Kelli2006

                Lemon juice and honey with added raisin added in the last half hour.

              2. This is the best I've ever had:

                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                My 30+ year quest to replicate my grandmothers came to an end upon finding this recipe!
                It freezes well too.

                1 Reply
                1. re: meatn3

                  meatn3 i made this about 2 months ago and i thought it was strange leaving the skin on the lemon and orange. I didn't love it.... I was looking for something more traditional less frou frou

                2. Ironically, I just found the recipe I'd been seeking. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20... Oh well, I'll tuck it away until the next time I'm in the mood to make stuffed cabbage.

                  1. I'm not sure if this qualifies as "sweet and sour," but I just made this on Sunday and it was delish. This is my late Polish babic's (grandma's) authentic recipe, which I guess over the years she had converted to use "convenience foods."

                    I start with a basic cabbage roll filling -- meat, rice, salt, lots of pepper, 1/2 tsp garlic powder.

                    For the sauce: 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 can of water, 2 8oz cans plain tomato sauce, 1/4 cup ketchup. The ketchup adds a little sweet tang. After reading this thread, I considered adding some vinegar or lemon juice, but I was concerned that it wouldn't combine so well with the cream soup.

                    1. I've made stuffed cabbage many times and have always been satisfied with the results. Last weekend, I used for the first time the recipe for "Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Sweet and Sour Tomato Sauce" from the Cook's Illustrated cookbook "The Best International Recipes" and it was, by far, the best ever. For the sauce, I used a 28 oz. can of 6 in 1 crushed tomatoes and a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, 1 cup of water, 3 Tbsp. of light brown sugar, and 2 Tbsp. of cider vinegar.

                      1. Polish stuffed cabbage is usually sweeter than Hungarian. My recipe is for Hungarian with a teensy bit of brown sugar, probably a violation to true Hungarians. The secret ingredient is to use sauerkraut juice and blend with some brown sugar. I also add sliced carrots to the dish, adding some natural sweeting. Remember stuffed cabbage is best made in advance and "rested" in the fridge for 1-2 days to allow flavors to meld. Here it is:

                        Large heal green cabbage with core removed
                        2 lb. ground chuck
                        1 T garlic powder
                        14-16 oz. can sauerkraut, juice drained into mixing bowl
                        3/4 cup rice, washed and drained
                        12 oz. baby carrots or sliced carrots
                        2 28 oz. cans chopped tomatoes, I like RedPack brand
                        1/3 cup brown sugar
                        2 eggs, beaten
                        1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

                        Bring very large 12+ quart stockpot to boil with about 9 quarts water. When boiling, add 1 T salt. Immerse whole cabbage (without core) in pot. Let simmer 5-10 min, until you can remove whole leaves with sharp knife at base. You may have to re-immerse cabbage several times to get this done. Typically, you harvest 12-14 leaves. Finely chop the remainder of the cabbage and reserve in large bowl. The next step is optional, but makes the dish taste better - using sharp paring knife, remove some of the woody vein along coked leaf, leaving it all attached, but trim judiciously. The goal is to make the leaf even thickness, cuts down on cooking time and tastes better. Let leaves dry in colander while you make filling.

                        Mix ground beef with s&p, eggs, washed rice, garlic powder in large bowl. Reserve filling.

                        Preheat oven to 350. Liberally grease very large roasting pan (like for turkey, preferably 11X17. To reserved chopped leftover cabbage, add drained sauerkraut. Optional is you can wash kraut for milder flavor. Mix in chopped onions and carrots. Spread half this mixture in bottom of roasting pan.

                        Mix tomatoes, s&p, brown sugar and reserved sauerkraut juice. Taste and adjust seasoning, you may want to make it more sour - add lemon juice, or more sweet - more brown suage. Pour 1/3 of this mixture over cabbage in roasting pan.

                        Fill each prepared cabbage leaf with small amount of ground beef mixture. Close as for envelope, making sure rolls are tight. DO NOT overstuff, rolls will explode. Line up rolls on top of prepared cabbage/tomato mixture. Add remaining cabbage/onion/carrot mixture and top with remaining tomato sauce. Cover roasting pan very tightly with heavy duty foil and bake at 350 for 2 1/2 - 3 hours. To save on cleanup, place roasting pan on large sheet pan.

                        After cooking time is up, check cabbage rolls to see if they are fully cooked. They may need some more time. Hint: if you are freezing them, cook about 3/4 way done, cool, then freeze.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Diane in Bexley

                          My Hungarian grandmother never used tomato and always used ground pork, mixed with salt, pepper, onion, and half-cooked short grain rice. We simmered the rolls with rinsed sauerkraut and water (and a piece of smoked meat added for flavor--smoked ribs are good!), adding paprika and a bit of flour to thicken right at the end. The rolls were always served with lots of sour cream.

                          1. re: foodslut

                            FS, your Hungarian grandmother was not Jewish, I am sure. Jews don't eat pork, or dairy with meat (sour cream). Trust me, this is traditional Jewish Hungarian stuffed cabbage, should have clarified that.

                        2. You could use a sour cabbage rather than a fresh cabbage. That is what some people I know use. I made that Holishkes recipe that someone else mentioned, with the lemon and orange peel. It was terrible! I scraped off the sauce and added plain tomato sauce and then it was edible.

                          1. I used to LOVE my mom's huloupki (sic). Her background was Russian. I could never figure out what she used for her "sauce". Turns out she made it with cans of Campbell's tomato soup and vinegar!