This recipe is modeled after the one used by Julie’s aunt, Rose Newman, a creative and discerning home cook. Many of the tips and techniques are hers — including the ingenious pre-microwave oven method for removing cabbage leaves from the head. This is the most time-consuming part of making stuffed cabbage. Though it requires patience, it not hard. You can do it a day ahead and refrigerate the leaves in a tightly closed plastic bag. This is a hearty dish with an abundance of thick sauce, which makes it just right for serving over a plate of buttered egg noodles or fluffy rice. Some people trim or shave away the thick stem ends of the cabbage; we find this isn’t necessary, especially in the slow cooker, which will thoroughly cook and tenderize the entire leaf.
Machine Setting and Cook Time: Low Heat: 10 to 12 hours
Makes 8 to 10 cabbage rolls, serving 6
1 medium head green cabbage
1/2 cup raisins, divided use
1/2 a medium carrot, peeled
1/2 a medium onion, peeled
1 pound lean ground beef
1/3 cup cooked white rice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, plus additional for sauce
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or to taste
3 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
Cooked egg noodles or rice, to serve
Prepare the cabbage. Bring a large kettle or saucepan of water to a boil. You will need at least 2 quarts of boiling water. Meanwhile, wash the cabbage and use a sharp knife to cut out as much of the core as possible. You will be removing a cone-shaped piece from the bottom center of the cabbage. Set the cabbage bottom up in a colander in the sink. When the water boils, slowly and steadily pour about three-quarters of it over the cabbage, directing it into the hole where the cabbage core was and down the sides. Reserve the remaining hot water in case you need it to soften a particularly difficult leaf.
Alternately, you can prepare the cabbage using a microwave oven. Wash and core the cabbage as directed above. Wrap the wet cabbage tightly in plastic wrap, being sure to cover it completely. Place the cabbage in the microwave, core end down, and cook on high 7 to 10 minutes, until the outside leaves seem pliable.
In either case, allow the cabbage to cool for a few minutes. Starting at the stem end, begin peeling away the leaves, one by one, using your fingers with care and a paring knife to detach any leaves that are still attached at the core. Do your best to remove the leaves without tearing them. If you are having difficulty, return the cabbage to the colander and re-douse it with boiling water, or re-wrap it and return it to the microwave.
You will need about 8 to 10 large leaves. They should be as intact as possible, but it is OK if there are small tears. Set aside the intact leaves. Quarter the remaining cabbage and begin to slice it crossways into 1/4-inch thick ribbons. You will need 3 to 4 cups of shredded cabbage. Place the shredded cabbage evenly on the bottom of the crock. Sprinkle about half of the raisins on top of the shredded cabbage.
Make the meat filling. In a blender or a food processor, combine the egg, the carrot, cut in chunks, and the onion, cut in chunks. Process until the vegetables are finely chopped. (Alternately, you can grate the carrot and grate or mince the onion.) Place the meat in a bowl and pour the egg mixture over the meat. Add the rice, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger. Using your hands or a large fork, gently combine the beef with the other ingredients, being careful not to compact the meat.
Stuff the leaves. Place a cabbage leaf on a work surface, so that it curves upward like a bowl, stem end toward you. Place about 1/4 cup of the meat mixture on the cabbage leaf, about 1 inch in from the bottom edge. Gently shape it into a thick log that runs sideways across the leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf in toward the filling, then bring up the stem end toward the filling. Roll up the leaf into a neat packet, keeping the sides tucked in and the whole thing as compact as possible. Place the completed roll on top of the shredded cabbage, seam side down. Continue stuffing and rolling leaves until you have used up all of the meat filling. As you finish arranging each layer of cabbage rolls in the crock, sprinkle on some of the remaining raisins until they, too are used up.
Make the sauce. Place the tomatoes in a medium bowl. Stir in the tomato paste, the vinegar, the brown sugar, 1/8 teaspoon of ginger, and a few grinds of pepper. Taste the sauce. It should be pleasantly sweet and tangy; adjust the taste as desired with additional vinegar, brown sugar, ginger and pepper. Unless you have used unsalted tomatoes, you will probably not need additional salt. Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls. Cover and cook on LOW for 10 to 12 hours.
To serve, remove the cabbage rolls to a platter. Serve them with noodles or rice and a generous helping of the sauce, shredded cabbage and raisins from the bottom of the crock.
Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2002/2016, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.
Lazy Day Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls Casserole
The slow cooker is perfect for cabbage rolls, but who has the time to roll up each individual roll when getting dinner on the table when the least labor is the objective. Here is the answer: the cabbage and filling is layered and cooked as a casserole, then served cut into portions directly out of the crock. This can be made as either a vegetarian entrée or not. Vegetarian ground round, such as Yves brand, is a satisfying substitute for ground beef or turkey. The freshly made mild chunky salsa makes this dish really shine. There are no hot peppers in this wonderful all-purpose fresh salsa. You can use fresh plum tomatoes in the summer.
Recommended Size: Large round or oval
Settings and Cook Times: LOW for 6 to 7 hours
Valerie’s Chunky Bell Pepper Salsa
1 red sweet bell pepper, stemmed, cored, and cubed
1 green sweet bell pepper, stemmed, cored, and cubed
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, drained
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large head green cabbage (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-pounds ground veggie beef, crumbled
1 (16-ounce) container small curd cottage cheese or ricotta
2 cups your favorite chunky fresh tomato salsa or Valerie’s Chunky Bell Pepper
2 cups raw converted rice
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil and oregano, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried
1 (16-ounce can) tomato juice
1 8-ounce container sour cream, for serving
1. Place the peppers and cilantro in the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse to coarsely
chop. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and cumin; pulse to combine. Pour in a covered
container and refrigerate 4 hours to overnight. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 week. Makes about 5 cups
2. Core the cabbage and remove a layer of leaves. Cut in half and chop. Spray the crock with nonstick cooking spray and pour the olive oil in the bottom. In a medium bowl, combine the veggie beef, cottage cheese or ricotta, salsa, rice, and herb until evenly blended.
3. Place a quarter of the chopped cabbage in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place a third of the filling and spread over the cabbage. Make two more layers of cabbage and filling, ending with a layer of the cabbage. Pour the tomato juice over the top.
4. Cover and cook on LOW 6 to 7 hours, until rice is fluffy and cabbage is tender. Serve hot topped with some spoonfuls of sour cream.