Garden Diary - January 2016

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Nana's Stuffed Cabbage
Saturday, 30 January 2016

My sister-in-law has been going through old papers, finding all sorts of evocative ephemera.

Including Nana's recipe for stuffed cabbage.

First thing I need, obviously, are cabbage leaves, to stuff. Cut out the core. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and put the cabbage, stem end down, into the water. A vigorous simmer will do. Start with 15 to 20 minutes. Scoop the cabbage out - a Chinese mesh strainer is ideal. And the cabbage is hot. After a few minutes, peel off the pliable outside leaves. Return cabbage to the pot and simmer some more.

Now, the rest of the ingredients. I only had jasmine and arborio rice in the cupboard. The first was, I decided, too delicate for this dish. I par-cooked the arborio, first with some butter and then slowly adding about half the hot liquid I'd use for a risotto, then set aside to cool. Chop meat, chopped onion, fresh sauerkraut, a beaten egg, salt, pepper . . . Mix together, along with the rice.

Pause to review the directions.

The mix rest with 1 lb of sauerkraut, that gave me pause. Then the aha! moment arrived. Coarsely chop the rest of the cabbage, the leaves too small to use as wrappers. And the heavy midribs from the wrapper leaves. The water bath softens the leaves and makes them pliable but the coarse midribs are still too heavy to roll and fold.

Remove midrib. With damp hands make a small ball. Center on leaf and start rolling. Tug in sides, then finish rolling. Set aside, with the edge of the cabbage leaf down. Repeat until either all of the filling or all of the cabbage wrappers are used. If there is extra filling, just make more balls.

As you can see, my kitchen supervisor kept a close watch on my efforts.

Mix the chopped cabbage with the sauerkraut. Put a good layer in the bottom of the pot (I used a Le Creuset Dutch oven.)i Add the cabbage rolls. Tuck any extra meatballs along with them. Cover with the rest of the sauerkraut cabbage mixture, including any sauerkraut liquid. Add a large, 28 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes.

Here I again deviated from Nana's recipe. She called for 3 tablespoons of fat. Instead, I used several strips of bacon from the Ramsayburg Homestead smokehouse. Also, rather than cooking it on the stovetop after bringing it to a simmer I put the Le Creuset Dutch oven in a slow, 275 Fahrenheit oven for 1 hour 45 minutes.

Of course the bacon did not crisp up in the covered Dutch oven so before plating I cut it into coarse pieces and browned in a frying pan to use as a garnish. Very nice, I thought. Unfortunately Paul didn't like the sauerkraut or the cabbage. What to do, what to do. Stuffed cabbage does freeze very nicely but for just one person there is a significant quantity remaining. So I called my good friend Carol. Her husband also does not like stuffed cabbage. But she does! Good deal for both of us.

UPDATE: Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Carol called, to say how much she enjoyed the stuffed cabbage. She was a little hesitant because it smelled smoky when she opened the container and she doesn't care for smoked foods. Went ahead to try some and really loved it, as the flavor was subtle enough for her taste. That makes two of us.

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