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Oct 6, 2010 11:17 AM

Stuffed cabbage question

Picked up a friend's farm share yesterday and am inundated with healthy veggies, including a big, fat head of cabbage.

I have tomato sauce leftover from yesterday's pasta, and rice leftover from when my man forgot to turn on the ricemaker for our stir-fry a couple days ago...

I was hoping to combine the cabbage, rice, and tomato sauce, perhaps add some sausage or ground beef and make cabbage rolls.

Question is how, given that two of the ingredients are already cooked, and I don't want the rice to get all smooshy.

I suppose I'd have to fry up the meat first, then wrap the leaves around rice & tomato sauce & meat mix, and then - big question mark! Steam? Throw in oven? Nuke?


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  1. I make cabbage rolls all the time with raw meat and cooked rice. Shouldn't be a problem, and the braising should give ou a nice juicy meat mixture inside.
    I would season the raw meat and rice mixture, blanch off your cabbage leaves, stuff them, layer them in your gratin/casserole and pour the tomato sauce on top. Cover and bake around 350F or so, maybe a little hotter, but lower heat will again, give you a moist filling.
    I like to sprinkle with fresh dill and one tip I learned from a great Chef was just a teeny, tiny touch of honey in the tomato sauce. So good.
    Please do not nuke!

    2 Replies
    1. re: rabaja

      Great! Thanks so much. One last question how long I should keep the stuffed leaves in the oven?

      1. re: linguafood

        They don't really take too long, especially since you don't have to worry about crunchy rice.
        I'd check them after 35 minutes, just fish one out and cut it in half. Cooks treat!
        I like to cook them gently, then remove from the oven and leave them covered to finish cooking through. This helps insure against dried out ground meat.

    2. I've been researching cabbage rolls for a week now and every recipe I've read and I've probably read a thousand or so has called for cooked rice and ground beef. Most have ground pork added. I don't think your rice will get mushy. Throw the sausage in around the rolls and cover with sauce. Cook for 45-60min. @ 350.Degrees.

      10 Replies
      1. re: othervoice

        Put the meat inside the rolls, not around them. Or both. Some recipes call for bringing the pot to a low simmer, then covering and either braising on the stovetop or placing in the oven. If you do any of the cooking on the stovetop, line the pot with whole cabbage leaves before arranging the rolls in the pot. Prevents the bottoms from scorching. Also, if you wish, instead of blanching leaves you can freeze the whole head of cabbage, then thaw it either in the fridge or to speed things up, in a leakproof bag submerged in cold water. The softened leaves will peel off easily and don't require blanching.

        1. re: greygarious

          Freeze the cabbage? This works? If it works, this may just revolutionize my halupki making. This qualifies a a Eureka Moment! Thanks, Gray!

          1. re: PattiCakes

            I learned about it on a TV cooking show. I THINK it was Joan Nathan, quite some years ago, and definitely on PBS because I have never had cable. She chopped the remainder of the head to use in the stuffing. If you weren't planning on using a whole head, you could just peel off as many leaves as needed from the fresh head, then freeze and thaw those leaves.

            1. re: greygarious

              oh very cool! I just bought a cabbage bigger than my head and I looked at all those big outer leaves and thought "time to make a batch of cabbage rolls!" Now it will be even easier. Thank you!

              1. re: weezycom

                ROTFLMAO at "a cabbage bigger than my head". Sounds like the lyric for a funky country western song.

              2. re: greygarious

                Yes, freezing is a bomb, and a boon, that really works. Freezing busts the cell walls and renders leaves pliant.

                You don't have to freeze the whole head. It is OK to just peel off those outer, larger leaves, and freeze them 'til they're limp and roll-able.

                Sometimes the grocer will have firm fresh heads with firm vibrant green outer leaves. Those are the ones you want for rolling and stuffing, and it is totally fine with the grocer if you strip those fresh thick green outer-leaf honkers from all the adjacent heads in the bin. Stack them up by their concave dip, bag them, get them home, wash them, then freeze them.

                Those big outer leaves, with cells busted from freezing, are the ones that you want to be using. They'll roll better than "Zig-Zag" and enclose much more filling. (But don't get me wrong... this ain't Chech and Chong... that was no moist stuffed cabbage they were a' smokin'.)

                Then you're left with the smaller diameter white head that goes great in the fried, steamed, or slawed.

                But as to "stuffed cabbage", I've only this adage:
                Gather. freeze outer leaves while ye may.

                1. re: FoodFuser

                  Ha Ha! I pity the poor grocery shopper who goes into any grocery store I've ever shopped at and starts picking up all the cabbages and removing the outer leaves. LOL
                  Never going to happen.
                  "Excuse me. I'm going to pick up all your cabbages and take off the outer leaves OK?"

                  1. re: Puffin3

                    I know! Why don't we all just pick the parts of the produce off that we want and leave the rest for the other suckers?

                    1. re: monavano

                      Some people are doing that - I often see loose leaves in the cabbage displays of supermarkets I frequent. And when I do, I buy them.

                      I once glared daggers at a woman who was monopolizing the broccoli crowns, which were already on sale at a great price, as she broke any stray leaves, and the stump of stem, off several of them so that she was taking ONLY the florets. She saw me but did not stop. So I told her outright that what she was doing was deplorable, and alerted the manager.

              3. re: PattiCakes

                Freezing the cabbage definitely works. It's awesome easy.

          2. I don't cook the rice first- raw meat and raw rice. Some of my relatives used cooked rice in their cabbage rolls, but their cabbage rolls were always mushier than my version.

            I use a stockpot. Line the bottom of the pot with torn/small cabbage leaves (could also use sauerkraut to line the bottom), then place layers of cabbage rolls in the pot. Top with more torn/small cabbage leaves. Add some tomato juice or diluted tomato sauce, and simmer (covered) for around 45 minutes, or until the rice is cooked to desired texture (by testing 1 cabbage roll).

            While I do cabbage rolls on the stove, I bake stuffed peppers, tomatoes, eggplants and zucchini in the oven, and the same type of filling using raw rice and raw meat usually takes closer to 1 1/4 -1 1/2 hours at 350 in the oven.

            11 Replies
            1. re: phoenikia

              We ended up putting it in the oven @350 for about 45 min., blanched leaves, raw meat & cooked rice mixture and all = fresh mint, parsley, and oregano, onion, and diced green pepper.

              I went easy on the salt, b/c I had blanched the cabbage in fairly salty water, and I wasn't in the mood to taste raw factory beef (alas, we were out of happy cow) or lamb to check the appropriate spicing, it could've used more. But better to err on the not salty enough side.

              The cabbage leaves were not as tender as I had hoped, and the tomato sauce was watered down to cover the bottom rolls.

              They were nice, yes, but need some future tweaks. I'll use your method next time, and keep the gemistes in mind - we have a bunch of green peppers still. Oh, how many veggies can two people eat??

              1. re: linguafood

                Another option, if you want the flavour of cabbage rolls, without all the labour, is to make a "lazy man's cabbage roll casserole", sort of a deconstructed answer to the cabbage roll, which is quicker to prepare and cook, and a little easier to check seasoning. Leave it to North Americans to deconstruct the cabbage roll!

                Here's the basic idea, from the Best of Bridge:

                Cabbage Roll Casserole

                A fast alternative for cabbage rolls.

                1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
                2 medium onions
                1 clove garlic, minced
                1 tsp. salt
                1/4 tsp.pepper
                1 - 14 oz. can tomato sauce
                1 can water
                1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
                4 cups shredded cabbage
                sour cream

                Brown beef, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, and stir in rice. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Place 1/2 of the cabbage in a greased baking dish, cover with 1/2 the rice mixture, Repeat layers. Cover and bake in 350 F. oven for one hour. Serve with sour cream. May be refrigerated before baking Serves 6

                When I make this type of casserole, I add fresh dill, parsley, cumin, oregano, etc. Probably would also add some cayenne or crushed chilies, too!

                1. re: phoenikia

                  LoL, add some cheeses to the layers and you have cabbage lasagna .

                  1. re: phoenikia

                    I make a deconstructed stuffed cabbage soup, based loosely on ingredients I scribbled down from an episode of New Jewish Cuisine many years ago. Roughly equal amounts of canned diced tomato and beef broth. Onion, garlic, celery, carrots, sliced cabbage, rice, diced deli roast beef heel ends, cranberry sauce, ketchup, maple syrup, and raisins or dried cranberries. I brown the onions before adding the tomato and broth, then put in brown rice (which takes 40min to cook) and halfway through, the rest of the ingredients. So it's under an hour from start to finish. I like to season it with Old Bay.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      What is with jewish food having odd sweet things added to recipes? My fiance's old room mate put grape jelly in meatballs? Now maple syrup in halupki???????????

                      By the way, beautiful greyhound.

                      also, responding to another question, it depends what kind of rice you are using. You don't cook white rice, but you cook (or at least partially cook) brown because it needs more water to cook than the white. Really cooked rice won't make bad halupki though.

                      1. re: j8715

                        I think it's a sweet&sour thing - in this case the canned tomato, and the vinegar in the ketchup. I'm not Jewish, but I love most of the flavors of popular Jewish dishes.

                        1. re: j8715

                          It might actually be a German thing as well. Think Sauerbraten, with the crushed gingersnaps in the gravy.

                          BTW, the grape jelly meatballs aren't so much a Jewish recipe as it is a 50's/60's recipe. That was a very popular chafing dish appetizer, that could be served right along with your onion soup mix dip (grin). I've seen a version with the little cocktail franks too.

                          I know you are just dying to try them!

                          Approved by June Cleaver.

                    2. re: linguafood

                      phoenikia, it's not just the 'north' Americans :-).
                      This recipe found by Diana Kennedy in Chiapas is very similar and versatile:
                      I've stuffed green peppers and zucchini with it, mixed with either rice or fideo. Serve with sour cream or yogurt - no cheese!
                      Cooking a few cups of shredded cabbage doesn't seem to give your kitchen the same, er, aroma as a whole head.

                      1. re: DiveFan

                        Good to know, DiveFan, even if my North America does include Mexico ;-)

                        Thanks for the link! Looks muy delicioso.

                    3. re: phoenikia

                      I do not freeze the cabbage to separate the leaves. Place the cabbage in a pan of boiling water and cover it and let it stand for 20 minutes. Remove the cabbage, drain it and gently remove the leaves. I use raw rice about 3 TBS to one pound of ground beef, add grated onion and seasoning with egg. Mix well and filll leaves. Have onion sauted and add crushed tomatoes with salt and pepper. ready before adding cabbage rolls.. Add the cabbage rolls and on low heat cook for about 1-1-1/2 hours. Add honey, lemon juice and raisins and cook 15 minutes at the end.

                      1. re: classylady

                        I know this is an old thread but.... Classylady - you should try the freezing method once - I don't think you will ever go back. I had been doing as you do for many years - and my complaint was that oftentimes the leaves would tear or the spoon that I used to turn the cabbage in the water would also tear the outer leaves. The freezing method works great!! I was apprehensive but so happy that I tried.

                    4. Im making cabbage rolls for my family reunion. I was wondering for Long they can stay in the fridge before cooking them with out going bad.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jessicaharris23

                        The conventional wisdom is probably 3-4 days. But it depends on how cold is your fridge.

                      2. I've made stuffed cabbage and I used uncooked rice in my meat mixture. I covered with stewed tomatoes and added about a half a cup of water. I hope I've added enough water to make them steam well and for the rice to get soft. Nothing worse than crunchy rice! Ugh... lol

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Xman0ne

                          Cook the rice!
                          It doesn't get soggy or anything.

                          1. re: monavano

                            I have used both cooked and un-cooked rice. I can't Tell the difference. I normally at least partial cook the rice for fear that it might come out crunchy one day.

                            Also, I add a some chicken livers to my meat mixture... (a trick from Anne Burrell). I think it adds a lot of flavor.

                            I have tried freezing the leaves I think it's better to boil but both work.

                            I haven't made these all that much but I love them so gonna keep tweaking.

                            I haven't had them from anyone/s mother or a Jewish restaurant so I don't exactly know what tradition is.. but I like every version I have made.

                            I am trying the Casserole next.

                            1. re: sparky403

                              I'm lucky to have grown up eating golabki (Polish)!
                              I've been tweaking the recipe for the meat mixture and the sauce, but never wavered from cooking the rice and boiling the cabbage to get the leaves off.
                              I love the idea of making it into a casserole.

                              1. re: sparky403

                                chicken livers, hmm, I simmered some in wine for a wacky take on rumaki (also as a casserole) and froze the leftover broth with the idea of making dirty rice sometime soon-ish, so hmmm, a cabbage roll casserole, but with 'dirty' rice...

                                hey lots of Eastern Europeans went through NOLA instead of NYC (passage was about $10 cheaper)

                              2. re: monavano

                                My grandmother made them with uncooked rice but I never got great results that way. I now use cooked rice. Actually, I've started using barley instead, and I now prefer the barley.

                                1. re: sadiefox

                                  I prefer barley also, but I don't precook it. But I cook the rolls in a lot of sauce for an hour.