Scrumptious Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage Rolls Almost ready for Oven
I love cabbage rolls. I've tried dozens of recipes over the years before finally finding one I like best - with some tweaking of course!

I don't use beef if I can use turkey or chicken so the first difference is that I use ground turkey instead of ground beef. Chicken isn't flavourful enough.

If we're having company I use beef as it's a much stronger flavour than turkey. You decide which you prefer and adjust your seasoning accordingly.


 COOK THE RICE

Normally when I make rice I don't measure anything. But for this recipe you need to be accurate or you'll end up with too much rice for the meat, or rice that is too dry or... you get the picture. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of chicken stock (use homemade or use water and one chicken bouillon cube. I don't like storebought but if you do, go for it) into a pan on top of stove. Bring it to a boil then add 1/2 cup raw rice. Turn heat down, put a lid on and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, just til all stock is absorbed. Let it cool a bit then add it to your filling below.

FILLING

You need about 1 1/2 lb ground meat for 24 rolls. Put the ground turkey in a big bowl.  Add one beaten egg.

In a skillet cook 8 slices of bacon. Then saute 3 chopped onions in the bacon fat until translucent, but not brown. Cut cooked bacon into small bits and add to the meat bowl. Add the onion. Add the cooked rice.

Mince 3 garlic cloves and add to the meat mixture. Now add spices. I like Fine Herbes which are a pre-measured combo of parsley, chives and tarragon. I use about 1 1/2 tsp of Fine Herbes. . Toss in 1/2 tsp. of thyme too. If you don't have Fine Herbes, use about 1 tsp thyme and 1/2 tsp parsley. I only use my own fresh thyme or the thyme I dried in my kitchen. If I have fresh marjoram I crumble about 1/2 tsp to add to the meat mixture. Add 1/2 tsp. garlic salt, and pepper to taste.

Mix all of these ingredients well. You can use your hands (clean hands of course!) if you need to. Once mixed, set it aside while you prepare the cabbage.

SOFTENING THE CABBAGE LEAVES

Cabbage in boiling water
Some recipes tell you to soften the cabbage in the microwave. I don't like this method so I use a large pot of boiling water on the stove. Take out as much of the hard core of the cabbage as possible, then put it in the boiling water. It takes about 5 minutes for the outer layers to soften enough to remove them.

If you have a large cabbage you will have to do this in stages. Boil for about 5 minutes, remove from water, peel off as many leaves as you can and then put the cabbage back in the boiling water. Keep going until you have as many pliable leaves as possible. Save the little inner bits that are too small to wrap. You'll need those later.

You're going to need 2 cabbages for this recipe. You can stack your leaves on a baking sheet as you separate them.

ASSEMBLING THE CABBAGE ROLLS

You'll need room for this stage. I use a baking sheet to lay my leaves out while I fill them, and to stack the filled leaves temporarily. All you do is lay out a leaf, and starting from the core end, place approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the meat mixture on the leaf. Then start rolling it up, being sure to bring the sides in to create a little package or envelope that will wrap the filling. Place it to one side, seam down, when down.

When I get a few rolls filled, I start placing them in my casserole dishes.

PUTTING CABBAGE ROLLS IN CASSEROLE DISHES

Layering Cabbage Rolls
Sometimes I put a thin layer of sauerkraut (rinsed and wrung dry) on the bottom of the casserole dish. If I don't have sauerkraut I just chop the smaller softened cabbage leaves (remember the bits I told you to keep earlier?) and layer those on the bottom.  Then I put about 1 Tbsp. of Demarara sugar as my next layer.

The filled rolls go next. Make one layer of cabbage rolls. seam side down, then put another layer of either sauerkraut and sugar or chopped cabbage and sugar on top. Pour tomato juice over top.


Tomato Juice Added
When I make my cabbage rolls, I bake them in small disposable containers each of which hold 4 - 6 rolls, depending on size. For each container I use about 8 oz. (1 cup) of tomato juice. So for this recipe I use 2-19 oz. cans of tomato juice.

I sprinkle more Fine Herbes on top, using about 1/4 tsp. for every 6 rolls. 

Cover the cabbage rolls with tin foil and bake in a 350' oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil and continue baking another 30 minutes.

These freeze beautifully.  I cook mine for an hour, covered, then freeze. When I'm ready to use the frozen cabbage rolls, I defrost them and cook for the last half hour, uncovered or until bubbly.

Serve with a green vegetable. I suggest sauteed zucchini, or green beans. You don't want a leafy green vegetable as you already have cabbage. I once served mine with sweet potatoes (yams) mashed with maple syrup, but I neglected to cook a green vegetable. It was a rather orange coloured supper!

Of course you need sour cream to put on top of the cabbage rolls when ready to eat!

The original recipe, which I altered to suit my tastes, was found in The Complete Canadian Living Cookbook printed in 2001





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