Warm Memories of Savory Stuffed Cabbages

Food memories have a huge positive impact on people’s lives. I once wrote a ten page essay titled “Soul Food”  to challenge a college English class. It was an analysis of foods from my past and how they have influenced the person I am now. I loved certain dinners my mom made…cheese pies and apple pies, beef burgundy stew over mashed potatoes, raclette. It’s obvious why, during the winter months, this blog turns most of its attention to food.

One of my strongest food memories is of my grandmother’s stuffed cabbages. We didn’t get to see my Nana very much as we lived 3,000 miles away. She would always spend hours in the kitchen, preparing for our visits. Sometimes, when she would visit us, she would cook cabbage rolls at our house. I especially loved the sweetness of the meat enveloped in the slow-cooked cabbage leaves. We asked her for the recipe but for whatever reason she never shared it. Maybe she thought it was her special gift to us to make it, not to teach us how to make it. After she died, I thought I would never taste Nana’s cabbage rolls again.

Several years ago, I bought  a crock pot and an accompanying recipe book. The book was an ordinary crock pot book. I cooked my way through it until I got to the stuffed cabbage recipe. My expectations were low. I was surprised and pleased (surpreased) to taste the results of the recipe which were nearly identical to my Nana’s cabbages!

I wound up selling the recipe book when I moved to Alaska. I did keep the one cabbage recipe in the event I wanted to recreate this delicious dish. Turns out at $7 a head, cabbage is not a depression era vegetable in the bush. It is gold…too rich for my blood. As luck would have it, a friend had most of a cabbage head she no longer wanted and traded me for granny smith apples she needed for a pie. Barter is still alive and well in bush Alaska!

From Crock-Pot Specialties

Spicy Cabbage Rolls

6 large cabbage leaves

2 tbsp water

1/4 cup minced onion

1/2 lb. lean ground beef

1 tbsp ketchup

1 small egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp raw long grain rice

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

8 oz. stewed tomatoes

2 tbsp raisins

2 tbsp cider vinegar

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp dark corn syrup

In a saucepan, immerse cabbage leaves in enough boiling water to cover and simmer for about 5 minutes or until pliable. Remove from water carefully and drain. In bowl, make stuffing by combining water, onion, ground beef, ketchup, egg, rice, salt, and pepper. Cut out heavy ribs from the cabbage leaves. Divide stuffing into 6 equal portions; place a portion in center of each cabbage leaf and fold the leaf around it. Secure with a wooden toothpick. Place the rolls seam side down in the crock-pot.

Combine remaining ingredients and pour over cabbage rolls. Cover and cook on Low setting for 8 – 10 hours.

Remove rolls to warm serving platter. Spoon sauce over rolls before serving.

2 or 3 servings (about 1 1/2 quarts)


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