Food You Can Eat: Stuffed Cabbage

Is it Russian? Is it German? Who cares--it's good.

First things first:  Our cabbage is coming in and we basically have three uses for it:  cole slaw, stir fries and stuffed cabbage.  I’m not ready for cole slaw yet, and we just had Asian food so this was the default result.  It is a recipe from my family and was pretty much the only way I would eat cabbage when I was a kid.

A caveat before we get started:  We grow a variety of cabbage called Tiara, which have much smaller heads than the gigantic cabbages you find in grocery stores.  So, the cabbage rolls here are much smaller than what you would expect using a standard head.  Also, I’m still trying to work through all the damned tomato puree from last year’s harvest, which means I made a sauce instead of using the method here.  Use your limited imagination and figure it out.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Head Cabbage

1 Lb. Ground Beef

1 Pkg. Bacon

2 16 oz. Cans Whole Tomatoes

1 Sm. Onion, diced

Spices of your own choosing.

Start a large pot of water to boil.  In the meantime, cut the bacon into pieces and fry with the onion.  This is one of an exceptionally small number of times when less-than-crisp bacon is acceptable.  That being said, do not mistake this small concession as carte blanche for you to use floppy, barely cooked, bacon, because that is—and always will be—bullshit.  The bacon should show a little brown on the edges and a thin brown coating should become evident on the bottom of the pan.

Note, the crisp edges and he brown bottom of the pan. Leave your disgusting raw bacon in the trash where it belongs.

Pour in one of the cans of tomatoes and deglaze the pot by scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, while breaking up the tomatoes.  Add the spices of your choice and simmer for a few minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the ground beef, breaking it up thoroughly.  No, the object is not to cook the beef at this point.  No, this will not kill you.  Stop your whining.

Your filling will not look like this because I’m changing the rules here.

Remove the core from the cabbage and begin CAREFULLY removing the individual leaves from the head.  Cabbage leaves are notoriously prone to tearing at the slightest provocation, so the best way to do this is to start pulling the leaves from the core end of the head, rather than from the thin end of the leaf.  Even with this method, you’ll still tear a few leaves.  Yes, you will have failed, but rest assured that your failure is just a state of your whole being and not limited to this one, simple task.

When the water is boiling, add the separated cabbage leaves and turn off the heat.  Allow the leaves to blanch for maybe a minute—no more—stirring a little bit to make sure all the leaves get submerged.  You’re blanching cabbage, not cooking it.  Pour the pot out into a colander and rinse the cabbage with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Your leaves should be soft and pliable, but not disintegrating when you pick them up.

Place one of the leaves in an ungreased casserole dish and fill with a scoop or two of the filling.  Then roll the leaf up and secure with a toothpick.  Lather, rinse, repeat, until either all of your leaves, or all of your filling, has been used up.  If you are good at this, your yield should be perfect…but we know how this is going to go, don’t we?

Pour the remaining 16 ounce can of tomatoes over the top of the stuffed cabbage and bake in a 350-degree oven for an hour.

Again, yours will not look like this if you do it according to the instructions. Mine still looks better.

Scoop each roll out with a serving spoon for plating.  Either remove the toothpicks right then and there, or feel free to play Russian Roulette at the dinner table with your guests.  Serve with some lightly sauteed vegetables, a salad, and a healthy dose of smug satisfaction.

About butcherbakertoiletrymaker 575 Articles
When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.


  1. Yes, you will have failed, but rest assured that your failure is just a state of your whole being and not limited to this one, simple task.” This recipe is sponsored by the Nietzsche school of cooking, whose motto is :To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”

    • No, because sauerkraut is fucking disgusting.  Given the choice between eating sauerkraut and eating cilantro, I would proceed to pour gasoline all over myself and light myself on fire.  The agony would not be nearly as bad as eating that shit.

    • Sauerkraut is stupid easy. Core a cabbage and shred it into a bowl. Add a heaping tablespoon of salt.
      Wring and squeeze the cabbage to break it down a bit and mix in the salt.
      Jam the cabbage into jars about 2/3 full. Mix up a brine with one tablespoon of salt per quart of water. Pour into the jars to just cover the cabbage. Put more brine into Ziploc bags maybe 1/2 full then seal  and squeeze into the jar to keep the cabbage in the brine. Cap lightly so air can escape and stick it somewhere at room temperature. You may need more or less brine depending on how big the head of cabbage is.
      Depending on the temp and how sour you like it, it will be done in a week or two. Pull out a Ziploc to taste, stick it back if it’s not done.
      When it is sour enough, yank the ziplocs and stick the jars in the fridge. You can eat it as is and it will be crunchy, or you can cook it to soften and heat it.
      Some people will try to complicate things and insist you need special salt and purified water and that is wrong. It does not matter. The souring bacteria will take over no matter what, and the sour flavor will overwhelm any kind of water or salt you use.

    • I make homemade sauerkraut each summer and let it ferment in the basement.

      Unlike some people who shall remain nameless, I quite love homemade sauerkraut and highly recommend fermenting your own!

  2. Sauerkraut is delicious, how do you eat pierogi without it? 
    Stuffed cabbage is Polish, according to my Polish aunt. Hungarian according to my Hungarian aunt. 
    Have you ever grilled slabs of cabbage? It’s really good. Also fried with butter or oil and haluski noodles. *chefs kiss*

  3. I keep wanting to make these but always put it off.  If my self esteem is not too shattered from reading this, I might give it a try.  Yeah, can’t do it.  Luckily we have a Hungarian restaurant that makes some badass ones w/ a shit-ton of paprika and a side of something similar to German potato salad or spaetzle.  

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