0 hours 40 mins
1 hours 0 mins
1 hours 40 mins
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3 Heads of Cabbage (24 leaves for stuffing, extra for baking)
1 Lb. Ground Beef
1 Lb. Ground Veal
1 Lb. Ground Pork OR Ground Pork Sausage
1 ¼ Cup cooked rice
6-8 slices of bacon
1 Yellow onion, finely diced
4 Garlic Cloves, finely diced
6 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 28 Oz. Can tomato sauce
¼ Cup white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
½ – ¾ Cup of boiling beef stock or broth
1 Tbsp. kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a very large pot of water to boil.
2. Mix the three meats, cooked rice and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Put to the side.
3. Cook the chopped onion and garlic with the olive oil on the stove until the onion are soft and translucent. Put to the side to cool.
4. Add heads of cabbage to the boiling water. (Depending on the size of your pot, you may have to do them one at a time). Cook the cabbage for about five minutes until the outer leaves are soft. Drain in a colander under running cold water so they are easier to work with.
5. When cool enough to touch, cut out the hard core at the end of the cabbage head. You may have to make multiple cuts around the core to loosen it and cut it out.
6. Separate the whole cabbage leaves from the head and pile them on a plate to let excess water drip off. (Note: you won’t be separating the inner leaves. They will be too small for the stuffed cabbage. Save those leaves for topping the baking pan (see notes below) or for another use.
7. Once you have all your leaves separated (you need about 24 from the three heads of cabbage), you need to remove the hard core in the middle of each leaf. Just cut it out using a knife.
8. Now, mix the onion mixture into your meat and rice mixture. You may need to add more salt. You can test by rolling a small amount into a little ball and frying in on the stove. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
9. Scoop a good ½ Cup of the meat mixture and put in an individual cabbage leaf. Fold the cabbage around the meat creating a little bundle. Place the cabbage bundles, seam side down, in a large baking dish or foil pan. Continue with all the rolls. You may need two pans depending on the size.
10. Mix the tomato sauce, vinegar and sugar in a measuring cup. Pour over your cabbage rolls. (If using two pans, pour half over each. Top each pan of rolls with 3-4 slices of bacon. Add half the boiling beef stock to each pan.
11. Use your excess cabbage leaves to act like tin foil and cover the bacon topped rolls. The moist cabbage helps the rolls steam and cook while protecting the cabbage rolls from getting burnt or overcooked.
12. Cook in the oven for 50-60 minutes until cooked through and the cabbage is soft.
13. Remove from the oven, let cool about five minutes and serve.
NOTE: In my house, this is a complete meal. You have protein, veggies and rice. However, if you need more, boiled red potatoes are a good side dish. Typically, we don’t eat the bacon. It has been added for flavor and moisture. Since it doesn’t crisp up, it has served its purpose while cooking the cabbage and we discard it.
I didn’t know that stuffed cabbage was a fan favorite in other cultures until my teens. In my house, Dad was Lithuanian and only he made it so we all assumed it was a Lithuanian dish. This was his recipe and we loved it. He’d only make it on special occasions so when he cooked it, we gathered around waiting for the “event” to begin. He said it was just like his mother made it so that is how I make it.
Over the years, I’ve entertained many people that wouldn’t eat veal, didn’t eat pork, were on diets so they didn’t want the bacon and even those that insisted on less rice (and make it brown rice, please!). This is a pretty flexible dish because all versions work. I’ve made this with just ground turkey and cut way back on the oil and still got great results. You have the formula, now make it your own.
Two notes: I cannot stress enough that this dish almost always needs more salt than you think. Take the extra minute to fry up a little ball and taste it. If it is bland, add more salt. A lot of this depends on whether you used plan ground pork or the seasoned pork sausage.
Second, this is definitely better on day two or three. Therefore, besides the fabulous leftovers, this is a great dish to make in advance and just reheat in a 350 degree oven. Just be sure to bring your baking pan to room temperature before reheating and douse your cabbage rolls with the sauce in the bottom of the pan before putting it into the oven.
From my Dad to you, let’s all be Lithuanian for the day!