Rich, comforting cabbage rolls, straight from the oven. Cabbage roll with the entire pan in the background.

Rich, comforting cabbage rolls, straight from the oven.

 

Are we allowed to make cabbage rolls on a warm spring day as perfect as the ones we dreamt of all winter? –So lucky to have this day. When we were young my mom used to make cabbage rolls. Their comfort and fragrance would hit us when we came indoors from a cold Alberta winter’s day. I almost feel like I should wait for winter to post these rich cabbage rolls and their subtle tangy sweetness. But since Aileen and I made a date and because we, OK mostly Aileen made them happen, here you go. Besides I can’t wait another 6 months to share our cabbage rolls with you because we finally got them right!

Bite into tangy cabbage rolls, topped with tomato, onion and dill sauce.

Bite into tangy cabbage rolls, topped with slow-roasted tomato and herbs.

 

You can taste a hint of dill, and a little tang from the tomato-onion sauce. I love how slow roasting brings out the sweetness in all vegetables, even cabbage. There are just enough spices in the filling to add flavour but keep their mystery. You can’t discern the pinch of caraway and sprig of thyme.

Yup I know that cabbage rolls take time to make, but what better way to pass a few hours with someone you love. Some things just can’t be rushed, and they can’t be bought. Only homemade cabbage rolls taste this good. Make a date, pour some wine, and treat yourselves!

Making cabbage roll filling. Stirring parsley, dill and meat into rice, onions and stock.

Making cabbage roll filling. Stirring parsley mixture into rice mixture, then adding meat.

 

Rolling cabbage rolls. Coat the roasting pan's bottom with tomato, onion and caraway sauce and cover with cabbage bits. Place cabbage rolls over the sauce layer.

Rolling cabbage rolls. Coat the roasting pan’s bottom with tomato sauce and cover with cabbage bits. Place cabbage rolls over the sauce layer.

 

Almost done! Layer cabbage rolls and sauce. Cover with outer leaves to keep in the juices and prevent scorching.

Almost done! Layer cabbage rolls and sauce. Cover with outer leaves to keep in the juices and prevent scorching.

 

Cabbage rolls keep really well. They are so versatile. You can freeze them for later, or keep a batch in the fridge for a healthy, fulfilling snack. It’s finally picnic season, and wouldn’t you be the hit of the party if you showed up with a tray of cabbage rolls!

The Recipe

Adapted from The CBC – Best Recipes Ever

Tangy Cabbage Rolls with a Hint of Roasted Sweetness
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Cabbage Rolls - Slow roasted to bring out the sweetness in the vegetables and blend the herbed tomatoes and sautéed onion.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 heads Green Cabbage, approx. 4 pounds /1.8 kg each (Use Taiwan Cabbage if you can get it. See note below.)
Sauce
  • 2 tbsp /30 ml Butter
  • 3 medium White Onions, sliced
  • 
1/4 tsp /1 ml Caraway Seeds, crushed
  • 
1/4 tsp /1 ml Salt
  • 
1/2 tsp /2 ml ground Black Pepper
  • 
3 tbsp /45 ml packed Brown Sugar
  • 
2 cans (each 28 oz /796 ml) unsalted Tomatoes
  • 2 cans (each 5.5 oz /156 ml) Tomato Paste (Blend tomatoes and tomato paste together with stick blender.)

Filling
  • 
2 tbsp /30 ml Butter
  • 
3 medium Onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh Thyme or 
1/2 tsp /2 ml dried Thyme
  • 1 pinch Cayenne Pepper
  • 
1 c /250 ml short-grained Brown Rice
  • 
1¼ c /300 ml homemade Chicken Stock or Stock from Bouillon
  • 
2 lb /900 g extra-lean ground Beef
  • 
1/2 c /125 ml chopped fresh Parsley
  • 2 tbsp /30 ml chopped fresh Dill
  • 
1 Egg, lightly beaten
  • 
3/4 tsp /4 ml Salt
  • 
3/4 tsp /4 ml Pepper
Instructions
Prepare Cabbage Leaves
  1. Half fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Fill a kettle with water and bring to a boil. Set a large bowl in the sink and fill with ice-cold water.
  2. Core cabbages. Place 1 cabbage in the boiling water and blanch for approx. 8 minutes, until several outer leaves are softened. (Taiwanese cabbage will soften more quickly than regular green cabbage.)
  3. Remove hot cabbage from pot of boiling water and place on work surface. Place second cabbage into the pot of boiling water. Add hot water from your kettle if necessary to cover the cabbage.
  4. Returning to the the first hot cabbage on your work surface, carefully pull away as many of the softened leaves from as you can without tearing. (Start at core end.) Place the separated leaves into the cold-water-filled bowl to cool. Drain leaves on tea towels. Remove from towel, cover, and set aside.
  5. Remove second cabbage from the pot of boiling water and place the second hot cabbage onto your work surface. Return the first cabbage to the boiling water to soften. Add water from your hot kettle if necessary to cover the cabbage. Remove as many leaves as you can. Keep alternating cabbages until all leaves are removed.
  6. From your pile of softened, drained leaves, cut out any heavy, unrollable veins. Cover cabbage leaves with damp tea towel and set aside.
Prepare Sauce
  1. Melt butter over medium-high heat in large heavy pan. Add onions, caraway seeds, salt and pepper and sauté for approx. 10 minutes until onions are golden.

Add sugar and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approx. 30 minutes until sauce is thick and "gloppy". Set aside.
Prepare Filling
  1. In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, thyme and cayenne pepper, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until onions softened and just transparent. Stir rice into the mixture.
  2. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes until rice is barely tender and liquid is absorbed. (Texture will be like a thick sauce.) Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in ground beef, parsley, dill, egg, salt and pepper.
Roll up your Cabbage Rolls
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F /180 C.
  2. Spread 1 cup /250 ml of the tomato sauce into large roasting pan or Dutch oven. (6 qt /6 L size) Top with bits of cabbage that are too small to roll. Reserve the big, dry outer leaves to cover your cabbage rolls.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling onto centre of each of a cabbage leaf. Fold sides over filling and roll up, starting at the core end.
  3. Arrange rolls, seam side down, in the roasting pan. Top with half of the remaining tomato mixture. Arrange remaining rolls on top and cover with remaining tomato mixture. Top with reserved outer cabbage leaves to add flavour and prevent scorching.

Cover roasting pan with foil and bake for 2 hours. Remove foil and bake for additional ½ hour.
Notes
  1. Taiwan cabbage is waaay easier to soften and roll than green cabbage. Taiwan cabbage looks like a slightly squashed green cabbage.
  2. To freeze, store cooled cabbage rolls in air-tight container. Reheat, covered, in 350 F /180 C oven for 1½ hours.

Cabbage rolls straight from the oven, covered with outer leaves to keep them full of juicy goodness.

Cabbage rolls straight from the oven, covered with outer leaves to keep them full of juicy goodness.

A healthier YOU Next Year Principle

Food is love. Some foods take a little longer to prepare and they are worth it, just like you and those you love are worth the effort.

Quote

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.

Mother Theresa

 

P.S. I wasn’t kidding about this perfect spring day!

I love peonies! –Their fragrance, their colour. They’re only here for a week in spring but they are worth the wait! (Rich pink peonies in the garden.)

I love peonies! –Their fragrance, their colour. They’re only here for a week in spring but they are worth the wait!