The Treasure Inside
I know this looks like frozen blocks of mystery meat. it’s not. It is one of the great taste pleasures of the High Holiday season. Yesterday, my older son and I made stuffed cabbage.
I have seen in classic Jewish cookbooks that stuffed cabbage is traditional for Sukkot. I grew up with stuffed cabbage being made only for the High Holidays. I know that these days that sweet meat is common. But I grew up with meat cooked sweet only for the High Holidays.
Most of making stuffed cabbage isn’t hard. For me the hardest past is steaming those cabbage leaves off of the cabbage. The last time I made stuffed cabbage the cooking gods must have been smiling on me. Those leaves just fell off of the cabbage. This year those leaves did not want to come off the the cabbage. I finally just let the half peeled cabbage sit on hot water over night.
My Romanian born doctor told me that in Bucharest, where she grew up they pickle whole cabbages in brine for a couple of months before making stuffed cabbage. I would assume that it’s really good, but not an option in my city apartment.
My friend Alan Divak, who writes an excellent food blog (Alan's excellent food blog) often discuss food after Shabbat morning services as we gorge on spicy eggplant and pita wedges. A while back, Alan and I had an in-depth conversation about how citric acid was the sour flavor used in traditional Eastern European cookery.
Alan is wise about many things, not just the food related. I decided to make the cabbage using citric acid. As I have long ago learned, if Alan tells you something about food, he’s right. he is a much more careful ( you can read that as obsessive if you wish) cook than I am. The citric acid give a cleaner taste than lemon juice. I am now a convert.
Forgive me, I am giving this recipe in an even less specific way than usual. I totally winged it after looking at the stuffed cabbage recipes in the Settlement Cookbook. Neither one was quite right, so I just built the flavors I wanted after a quick glance at the Settlement Cookbook.
3 lbs chopped meat put into a big bowl
1/2 cup raw rice
1/2 cup more or less, raisins
a healthy glug of ketchup
several strong shakes of: ginger, cinnamon black pepper and a small shake Lawry Seasoned salt
1/4-1/3 c brown sugar
several shakes of citric acid
chop up cabbage core and broken leaves and put on the bottom of a large pot
Roll blobs of meat mixture into cabbage leaves. put meat blob into the lower 1/4 of leaf in the center. Fold in leaf sides and then roll up leaf. Plate in the pot seam side down. Keep adding rolled up cabbages. Stuffed cabbage likes to be crowded in the pot.
If you have meat left over, roll into small meat balls and add to the pot. If you have cabbage left over slice into ribbons and add to the top of the cabbage rolls.
My sauce was made out of one large can of crushed tomatoes. I splurged and bought a fancy brand. It wasn’t quite enough and two cans would have been too much so I also added a can of tomato paste.
I also added about 1/3 cup of brown sugar, and more citric acid and black pepper. I simmered the cabbage for a few hours and then tasted the liquid and corrected the seasoning. Then I boiled the mixture at a high heat to reduce the liquid. Most commercially available stuffed cabbage is simply too sweet. You don’t want the cabbage gloppy in a syrupy sauce but in a sauce that is a nice balance of sour and slightly sweet. This isn’t candied…but just slightly sweet. You may have noticed that I didn’t add salt. feel free to. I have trouble with salt and tend to leave it out when I can or use as little as I can get away with. if you can eat salt and not have your feet swell, use it to your heart’s content.
I put the cabbage in the freezer ( let me be honest here, my son packaged up the cabbage), mostly because I don’t have enough fridge room and I still have to make Shabbat dinner.
Sunday I will make the trimmis and bake the challah.