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Jewish Stuffed Cabbage

Talk about timing! The theme for this month’s Progressive Eats is Memory Lane Comfort Food. My mom‘s Jewish-style stuffed cabbage fit the bill perfectly. She gave me the recipe when I went off to college. I haven’t made the dish in years and was looking forward to it.

Stuffed cabbage is a delicious dinner, especially in cold weather.

I planned to cook and photograph the dish this past weekend. Then the blizzard of 2016 happened. As the snow fell for hours on end and the winds whipped the trees, the stuffed cabbage cooked.

The blizzard of 2016.

We ate the stuffed cabbage in our warm and cozy den, watching a marathon of streaming episodes of our favorite shows.

Jewish-style stuffed cabbage is a perfect cold weather meal.

Once the snow stopped we started shoveling. We’re still shoveling as I write this, more than 18 hours after the record snowfall ended. But we’re grateful for many things – our power didn’t go out, all of our family and neighbors are safe, and we still have some of the stuffed cabbage left to eat tonight.

This dish is old school. It takes a long time to prepare and cook. Multi-tasking had not yet been invented when my grandmother and mother folded their cabbage rolls. You might get on your smartphone once it goes in the oven. Before then, just turn on good music and enjoy the process of putting the stuffed cabbage together.

The stuffed cabbage has a mild sweet-and-sour flavor. With the proportions and directions handed down in my family, there is just enough sauce to give each roll a spoonful as you plate it. If you want more sauce, cook it covered for a longer part of the specified cooking time.

It’s a one dish supper, with vegetables (cabbage and tomatoes – yes I know tomatoes are really a fruit), meat, and rice. We enjoyed the cabbage rolls with just challah and a glass of red wine. Add a salad if you must – just don’t feel obliged. 

The ingredients are simple. 

Ingredients for Jewish stuffed cabbage.

The principle is one people of any ethnicity can relate to – stretch the meat with rice, and cabbage. Then cook it in sauce to make a hearty meal.

Cabbage is easier to work with than you might think. After you cook it to make the leaves pliable, you simply shave off the thick part so the leaves roll more easily. 

Cooked stuffed cabbage leaves ready to roll.

It's easy to roll the meatballs for stuffed cabbage.

The cabbage rolls on their own would be rather plain; once stewed in the sweet-and-sour sauce, they are divine.

Stuffed cabbage rolls ready to go into the pot and bake with sauce.

Stuffed cabbage before baking.

Stuffed cabbage is a fabulous, one-pot dinner.

Print Recipe
Jewish Stuffed Cabbage
Old school sweet-and-sour stuffed cabbage rolls. Just like my grandmother and mother made them.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 210 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 210 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Boil a huge pot of water. Cut the core out of the cabbage. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the cabbage and cook, covered for about 10 minutes. Occasionally roll the cabbage around so each side is under water as it cooks.
  2. Once it is done, gently lift the cabbage into a colander or strainer set in a bowl. Pour cool water over the cabbage. When it is cool enough to handle, separate the leaves. If inner leaves are not pliable, put what is left of the cabbage back into boiling water for a few minutes.
  3. Shave off the thickest part of each leaf, near where the leaf had been attached to the core.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degree F.
  5. Mix the rice, grated onion, eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add the beef and combine all the ingredients with your hands. Make small meatballs between golfball and baseball-sized. Set them aside on a plate.
  6. Loosely wrap each meatball in a cabbage leaf and place seam side down on a platter. Arrange the leftover leaves on the bottom of 1 or 2 heavy oven-safe pots. (Total volume of the entire dish is about 6-6.5 quarts.) Move the cabbage rolls into the pot(s), making sure to put the seam side down. Layer with about half of the thin onion slices, which typically fall apart into crescents as you pick them up.
  7. Once all the cabbage rolls are in the pot(s), add the tomatoes and their juice, the tomato sauce, the lemon juice, and the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. If the canned tomatoes are whole, open them with a spoon or knife, so that their juices flow out. You can either mix the ingredients in the pot or stir them in a bowl first. Top with the remaining onions.
  8. Bring the pot(s) of stuffed cabbage to a boil on the stovetop. Sprinkle on the brown sugar and gently mix it in. Transfer to the oven and bake covered for 1 hour, then 1 & 1/2 - 2 hours uncovered.
Recipe Notes

If you lift the cooked head of cabbage out of the pot - instead of pouring out all the water after the cabbage cooks - you'll still have the hot water left if it turns out that the inner leaves are not yet cooked when you peel down to them.
Do not be concerned if a cabbage leaf tears. You can use it to line the pot(s) or keep it on the bottom side of the roll as you put it the cabbage roll in the pot.
Keeping the meat and rice balls loosely formed and loosely wrapped is important so that the rice has space to expand inside the meatballs and the meatballs themselves can expand in the cabbage rolls.
When reheating any leftovers, add a bit more tomato sauce, juice, or other liquid if the rolls have absorbed most of the liquid.

Share this Recipe
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is all about Memory Lane Comfort Food and is hosted by Lana Stuart who blogs at Never Enough Thyme.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.

We have a core group of 12 bloggers, but we will always need substitutes and if there is enough interest would consider additional groups. To see our upcoming themes and how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information.

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Memory Lane Comfort Food

  1. Absolutely perfect dish for a cold winter day. Glad you guys are safe. It was a terrible blizzard. I don’t think there is a dish more comforting and old school than meat and cabbage. There is something about the combination that brings warmth and just good feelings. I will be making this soon.

  2. Lemon juice and brown sugar?! Oh wow–that sounds perfect! So glad you guys didn’t lose power and had these cabbage rolls to keep you company, Laura!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jenni. We’re in good shape blizzard-wise. These cabbage rolls have had a big part in keeping us sane and happy these past few days.

  3. Oh we love Stuffed Cabbage! My mom used to make these for us and when I try to make her recipe, I miss her even more. Your photos are so mouthwatering I am resisting the urge to crack the computer screen open. Thanks for the recipe. Fun doing Progressive Eats with you and the group, Laura. Hope all is well with you!

    1. Many thanks Betty Ann. We should get together and cooke our mom’s stuffed cabbage recipes together, then have a huge Filipino/Jewish-american banquet. It is fun to do Progressive Eats together – so glad that you’ve joined us.

    1. Thanks Susan – if your husband’s family is from Eastern Europe, then this dish may well be familiar to him. Hope you like it.

  4. I’ve honestly never had cabbage rolls, but the combination of flavors sounds great! I’ll have to try your recipe the next time we get a cabbage in our CSA.
    (BTW your redesign/new logo looks lovely! Not sure I mentioned it before 🙂 )

    1. Megan, Glad you like this recipe – it’s a great one for using cabbage and for taking meatballs in a whole new direction. Also, appreciate your kind words about the redesign.

  5. Dear Laura, these cabbage rolls look divine. And they do look like they take time to make, but oh so worth it! I love that it was your mom’s recipe. We missed out on the blizzard this time around (for once) and I missed that snowed-in, mandatory hibernation that I love. I’m so glad you all enjoyed your time in!

    1. Allie, I’m done with the snow now (as it turns black and melts – too slowly) but while the blizzard was raging and I was cooking it was fun. Hibernation with food isn’t a bad way to spend a few days.

  6. This reminds me a lot of my grandmother’s Russian stuffed cabbage – one of my all time favorite recipes from childhood to now. Your photos are amazing and your stuffed cabbage looks incredible. I’m craving some right now!

    1. Thanks for the complements Lisa. Yes, it’s my Ashkenazic family recipe. If you come over, we can pull out the portion I secreted into the freezer for the next time I crave it.

  7. Go on; call this Jewish Stuffed Cabbage but it’s almost exactly what my Catholic grandma used to make and now I’m dying for some! Literally would walk through 3 feet of snow to get some. 🙂

    So you had some Denver weather hmm?? OK, we don’t get that every year but I do know the feeling and I also love cooking during a storm!

    1. OK, we can call it Jewish/Catholic stuffed cabbage. My 90 year old mom wouldn’t mind a bit and neither would I. Yup we got some of that Rocky Mountain weather and we’re not used to it. But since I was able to cook during the storm, I can hardly complain.

    1. Thanks Lana – for me too, it had been years. But now I’m delighted to know that I put a few away in the freezer for reserve. Next storm, guess what I’m pulling out:)?

    1. I’m sure the Wyoming blizzards are much worse than the ones we have in DC. Still, this did help us get through the shoveling. And we should do a switch night – you make my dish and I’ll make yours and both of our families will be happy!

  8. I can’t believe I’ve never had these, but I am certainly going to remedy that right away. What a wonderful meal on these cold and wet days of winter Laura. I can’t wait to make them! Perfect for #ProgressiveEats!!

  9. I have been searching for a good stuffed cabbage recipe and this one looks perfect. The directions say to add eggs, however they are not listed in the ingredients. Would it be a good guess on my part if the recipe calls for 2 eggs?

    1. Debbie – Oy! You are so right that I neglected to include the eggs in the ingredient list, even though they are pictured in the photo of the ingredients and described in the preparation directions. Just fixed that omission – many thanks for your sharp eyed editing. I hope you enjoy the stuffed cabbage.

    1. Sheila, So glad you liked them. Yes, they freeze well. (We ate some from the batch in the post after they had been frozen, defrosted and re=heated.) You may want to make a bit of additional sauce once you reheat them, as the cabbage rolls tend to soak up the sauce when they sit. Microwave reheating works fine because the dish is saucy, rather than crunchy. I’ve used both microwave and stovetop re-heating. Both work fine with fully defrosted cabbage rolls.

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