WW Freestyle SP: 6
“I don’t know where I got this recipe, but I have been using it for well over 20 years. Works well in a slow cooker.”
We all have a fondness in our heart for the dishes we grew up with, and the way our parents or grandparents cooked them. Often, we find ourselves wishing that our grandparents had written their family recipes down. After they’re gone, we struggle to capture that traditional flavor, the one we remember so well from our childhood.
Stuffed cabbage leaves were a central part of the Eastern European Jewish diet. When we talk about these types of dishes, it nearly always comes down to one question:
“How did Bubbe make it?”
Because I don’t have a Jewish “bubbe,” I have to create my own favorite way of making these iconic Jewish dishes. Sometimes I am influenced by my husband’s family, but I also like to see what other family traditions are out there.
Whenever I want to learn a Jewish recipe, I try many, many different recipes to see what I like best in each one. That means I’ve made stuffed cabbage over a dozen different ways. I’ve tried recipes from Polish friends and Israeli friends. I’ve tried it the Sara Kasden way, the Molly Goldberg way, the Fanny Engle and Gertrude Blair way (Jewish cookbook authors from my vintage cookbook collection). I’ve tried the wonderful versions from Joan Nathan and Arthur Schwartz and 2nd Avenue Deli. I’ve made it with V-8 juice and tomato soup, cranberry sauce and apricot preserves, raisins and crushed gingersnaps.
I’m quite certain this recipe would have been great exactly as written, but I did make a few changes to suit our taste. First of all, you can get your cabbage leaves to come apart perfectly by zapping the head of cabbage in the microwave for about 2-1/2 minutes at a time. Just score the core, and you will get full, perfect leaves without any tearing at all. No need to mess with boiling water. I did not cook the cabbage leaves at all, I just simmered the rolls longer in step 4. With the meatballs, I added an entire cup of rice, garlic powder and closer to 1/4 cup of the prepared sauce. I did not find any reason to secure the cabbage rolls with toothpicks or string; they stayed together just fine seam side down. Being out of tomato soup, I used tomato sauce, but more of it; 3 (8 oz.) cans plus 1/2 cup of water. I also upped the brown sugar and lemon juice to 2 Tbsp. each. I remember my grandma making these when I was a child, and she would always throw a handful of gingersnaps into her sauce, so I added 4-5 to mine for good measure. Simmered for about an hour, stirring and basting as directed. This was my first attempt at making these, and they were out of this world.
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