Now is the time for homegrown cabbages with large dark green outer leaves to appear in farmstands. Most often, grocery store cabbage has had all these lovely outer leaves trimmed, so when I find heads with lots of loose outer leaves, I am delighted. I always separate 12 or 14 leaves as soon as I get the head of cabbage home, and put them into a Ziploc bag, saving the rest of the cabbage for other uses. With these leaves that many people think are tough and throw away, I make one of our family’s long time favorite dishes, stuffed cabbage. Other recipes may call them cabbage rolls. Mine is adapted from an old copy of Good Housekeeping Cookbook I have had for many years.
Cooking this one pot meal requires a few steps, and definitely more cooking time than most of my best loved dishes, but it is so worth it. Just pick a time when you can do the preparation ahead of time, and plan on about 3 hours of baking.
Large head of fresh cabbage with loose outer leaves
1 pound extra lean ground beef
½ cup uncooked rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large onion, sliced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes
juice of 2 fresh lemons
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ to 1 cup brown sugar, packed.
Ingredients that are listed twice are used at different times in the recipe.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Remove 12 large outer leaves from cabbage head. Bring a pot of water to boil and let leaves stand a few seconds to soften and make them easy to fold. Remove, drain, and cool enough to handle. On a cutting board, trim off thick part of each leaf.
Mix meat, rice, onion, eggs, salt and pepper. Place a heaping tablespoon of mixture in the center of each leaf, fold up bottom, sides and top to make a small package. Spray a large pot or dutch oven with cooking spray and place a few unused cabbage leaves on the bottom. Place stuffed cabbage into pot, making layers with sliced onion.
On top, pour crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and lemon juice. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and brown sugar on top. Bring to a boil on top of the stove. Bake covered for 1 hour. Uncover, and bake 2 hours longer. Makes 8 servings.
Trust me, it is worth all the trouble! The little packages of meat and rice wrapped in cabbage are even good cold! Children like to help wrap them up.