Stuffed Cabbage Rolls


Note:  Traditionally these rolls are made with rice instead of breadcrumbs.  I've modified the recipe a bit since we like the taste a bit better using the breadcrumbs.

(Read the following before beginning!)

  Using a large pot (big enough to hold the whole cabbage), put in the salt and fill with water until the cabbage is nearly submerged.  Bring pot to a boil and boil the cabbage for about 20 to 30 minutes.  (You want to soften the cabbage, but not boil it too long or it will be mush.)

  Meanwhile, dice up the bacon into small pieces and fry until desired crispiness .. do not over crisp.  Pull the bacon out and put to the side.  Finely dice up the onion and sauté in the bacon grease.  Pull the onion out and also put to the side. Pour some of the bacon grease into a measuring cup (about 1/2 to 1 a cup, preferably a cup) for later use.  Pour remainder of bacon grease away.

  Slowly fry the ground beef and thawed sausage in the pan adding finely diced fresh garlic cloves if available.  The sausage should be mushed and blended in with the ground beef rather than being clumps or pieces.  Only brown/cook through the meat, do not fry it where it is hard or dry.

  Pour half the container of bread crumbs into a large bowl.  Mix in 3/4 of the bacon, 3/4 of the onions, the meat mixture, the spices and the eggs.  If fresh garlic gloves were not available to cook in with the meat, add the teaspoon of garlic powder at this point.  Add more breadcrumbs as necessary to make a nice solid mixture.

  Once the cabbage has been boiled soft, pull the cabbage from the pot and run it under cold water for a bit.  The cabbage will need to be carefully opened up to cool, or you can cut the core off the end and separate the leaves to let them cool.  Save about a cup of the boiled cabbage water.

  Once the cabbage leaves have cooled enough to comfortably handle, scoop a large tablespoon (you'll have to use your judgment here depending on the size of the leaf) into the leaf and fold the leaf over the mixture to create a small package.  Either tie shut with cooking string or use a toothpick to hold the package closed.  String is the preferred method.

  Pour the saved bacon grease back into the frying pan .. any bits and pieces left over from the cooking of the meat can stay and will add flavor.  To the bacon grease add the saved boiled cabbage water, and bring this to a boil.  Slowly add the cabbage rolls and cook them in the pan, turning them to keep the leaves from getting burned .. you might have to do them only a couple at a time.  Cook until the rolls are warmed through, then put the cooked cabbage rolls to the side.  Preheat oven to 350°F.

  To the pan mixture of bacon grease, water, leftover bits and pieces .. add the can of tomato sauce, the remainder of the bacon and onions, the mushrooms, the chives, the OXO cubes and some more spices (thyme, pepper and garlic, as you see fit .. though be gentle at this point, the sauce should taste a bit differently than the rolls!)  Bring this new mixture to a boil.  At this point you should have a reasonable amount of sauce.

  Ladle some of this sauce into the bottom of the Dutch Oven (to keep the rolls from burning to the bottom).  Stack the cabbage rolls into the Dutch Oven, spoon the sauce from the pan over the rolls to cover the cabbage rolls.  If there is not enough sauce to cover the rolls .. don't fret about it, do not add water! .. and do not wash the pan yet either.

  Cover the Dutch Oven, and bake for about an hour.  At this point you can make your side dish such as rice or boiled potatoes or flat noodles .. your choice.  Fresh bread will compliment this meal nicely too.

  Once baked, pull the cabbage rolls out and put into a large serving dish.  Either cover this dish or place back into warm (not hot) oven .. you might have to leave the oven door cracked open to prevent drying of the cabbage rolls.  Pour the sauce from the Dutch Oven back into the pan.  Bring the sauce to a boil adding water and corn starch as necessary to make a nice gravy to serve over the cabbage rolls and side dish.

Serve food ... and enjoy the meal.

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