Cabbage Rolls
Cabbage Rolls Main Meals

1
Comfort food at it's best. Tender meat and rice filled cabbage rolls that can be cooked over the stove top or baked in the oven. Makes 30 - 45 rolls: see notes.
   
Ingredients:
Tools & Equipment:
  • 2 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 3 large onions, pureed
  • 3 - 4 garlic cloves, pureed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup long grain rice, uncooked
  • 5 - 6 sprigs of dill, finely chopped
  • 5 - 6 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp basil, dried
  • 1 tsp thyme, dried
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 - 2 tsp beef or chicken soup base powder, optional
  • large mixing bowl
  • cutting surface
  • sharp knife
  • large pot or baking casserole
Stove Top Cabbage Rolls:
  • water, beef or chicken broth

Oven Baked Tomato Cabbage Rolls:

  • 3 - 4 cups tomato juice
  • 3 - 4 cups water mixed with 1/4 - 1/3 cup tomato paste
    Notes:
1. Filling placed on end of leave. This is one half of one full leaf.
2. Start rolling the leaf over the filling and roll up the leaf.
3. Finished roll.
4. Pot lined with veins and then filled with rolls.
Two Cooking Methods: The cabbage rolls can be cooked in water, in a pot, over the stove top, or in tomato sauce, in a casserole, in the oven. Cabbage rolls made with tomato juice should be baked in the oven rather than in a pot over the stove, since tomato juice has a tendency to scorch.

In the Oven: Place the rolls in a wide, but tall casserole, in a single layer if possible. Make sure that the rolls fit snugly into the casserole, instead of giving them plenty of space for them to move around freely; otherwise, they can unravel. One can also add in 1 cup of crushed tomato pieces into the tomato juice for added texture to the sauce.

In the Pot: Place the rolls snugly into the pot, making 2 layers. Always place and layer the rolls from the middle of the pot, placing the next layers of rolls in the centre. Place a ceramic plate that will fit into the pot, large enough to cover the rolls. The plate will help to keep the rolls down and in place during cooking; otherwise, they'll move about and unravel during boiling.

The beef or chicken broth can be home-made or store-bought: liquid or powder form. For powder form: combine 1 heaping tablespoon chicken, or beef soup powder with 3 cups water and then add in more water to cover rolls as indicated.

To freeze cabbage rolls: The rolls are best if they're frozen uncooked. If cooked, frozen and then cooked again, the rice splits and the filling doesn't taste the same as if made fresh. Line a large baking pan with plastic wrap. Place the rolls spaced well apart from each other on the prepared baking sheet and freeze. Stack the frozen rolls in plastic freezer bags or containers, or even better, vacuum pack them.

To cook frozen cabbage rolls in a pot: Pry apart the rolls and let them defrost at room temperature for a couple of minutes and then cook them as indicated for "in the pot". The cabbage rolls, because they're partially frozen, cannot be placed snugly together in the pot, because they're stiff frozen and aren't flexible: this is normal.

To bake frozen cabbage rolls in the oven: Warm the tomato juice until warm to the touch in a medium pot. Place the rolls in the casserole and then add enough juice to cover the rolls by 1-inch. The rolls will float, therefore, press one roll down into the casserole and see if the casserole needs more juice. Cover the casserole well its matching lid or foil paper. Place the prepared casserole on the lowest rack level, in the oven; turn the oven to 500'F. and bake for 30 minutes; then reduce the heat to 425'F. and bake for 1 hour. The tomato juice, when finished, will have reduced to about 1 cup or so. If there's too much liquid, loosely cover the casserole and bake at 500'F. until the liquid reduces to a thin sauce. Some of the tops of the cabbage rolls will have small darkened spots and this is normal.

Serving Suggestions:
I like to make 3 rolls per person and serve 2 per person, having an extra one, just in case one wants more. I don't cook more than 15 rolls, at a time, if I'm serving 4 persons. I will, however, prepare a large batch with the entire cabbage, which can make about 30 - 45 rolls, depending. I'll usually cook what I need and freeze the rest for future meals. I prefer to bake them in a tomato sauce, in the oven, in glass or ceramic ovenware. I don't use aluminium pans, because the high acid content in the tomato can "eat away at the pan" and have small trace amounts of aluminium in the food. This is not visible by the naked eye, but nevertheless, the concerns associated with consuming foods baked in aluminium cookware raises a "red flag" of caution.

Making the Meat and Rice Filling:
Prepare the cabbage leaves as indicated.

In a large bowl, combine all the filling ingredients, except for the leaves, water, broth and tomato juice.

Count how many leaves you heave and then divide the filling according to the leaves you have. If there's leftover filling, then roll them into meatballs.

Place one leaf half flat on a cutting surface. Place the filling on either end of the leaf. Roll the leaf over the filling to cover the filling (picture 2). Then bring the sides of the leaf over the middle and then roll up everything towards you (picture 3). Place the cabbage roll on a cutting surface with the seam side down.

Baking the Cabbage Rolls over the Stove Top, in a Pot, with Water or Broth:
Place the reserved veins and/or any extra leaves not used in the bottom of the pot. Place and layer the rolls snugly into the pot with the seam side down (picture 4). Place the meatballs, if any over the centre of the top layer of rolls. Cover everything with a large plate and then fill the pot with enough water, or broth, to cover the plate by 2-inches. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat covered well with its matching lid. When at a boil, reduce the heat to medium and boil for 45 minutes, partially covered; check the pot to see if it needs a bit of water now and then, just in case the liquid has reduced too much, too quickly and gently jiggle the pot from left to right a couple of times to move around the rolls. Remove the plate and allow the rolls to cook for 10 - 15 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced and has barely covered the rolls. Serve with bread of choice.

Baking the Cabbage Rolls in the Oven, in a Casserole, with Tomato Sauce:
Position an oven rack on the lowest level and preheat the oven to 425'F. Place the rolls snugly into the casserole. Pour in enough tomato juice to cover them by 1-inch. Cover with matching lid, or seal well with foil paper, and then bake in a 425'F. preheated oven for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours. Check on the rolls halfway through baking and see if the casserole needs a bit of water to prevent the pan from scorching. Note: Always remove the foil from the furthest part away from you to avoid steam burns. Most of the tomato juice, when done, will have been reduced, enough to barely cover the rolls, and the leaves and filling should be tender; though, they can be cooked longer, if one prefers a tender roll. The rolls will absorb most of the tomato sauce as they cool down. Serve with bread of choice.
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