Cabbage rolls have always been a popular food in my family while growing up, and now they’ve become a meal that is looked forward to in my ‘new’ family. There are many ways to make cabbage rolls, and I’m sure each family has their own preferences and take to them, but this is the way Grandma taught my mother how to make them, so this is the way in which we make them.
I had watched Mom make cabbage rolls for decades but had never made them myself. Mom came over to Northern Ireland to visit as I was making plans to leave. It just so happened that this was about the time Phil and I started to go out, and I’m still here. However, we’re now able to make and eat them when I’m missing the comforts of ‘home’.
The recipe that follows is how Mom made them when she came to visit on that occasion. Three and a half years ago she was back after Kallista was born and she showed Phil how to make them and they’re now his forté.
Cabbage roll ingredients
- 1 pound fresh beef mince
- ½ Cup rice
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 1 large head of cabbage – de-cored
This how we make our cabbage rolls
1) Place the cored-cabbage in a pot of boiling water, the core-side on the bottom of the pot. Cover to steam well for a few minutes to soften.
2) Carefully peel off the softened leaves as they are ready. This will take a little while as each layer steams.
3) While waiting for the cabbage to steam: mix the mince, onion, garlic and rice and add a bit of water (about 1/2 a cup) and pepper.
4) If the spine of the cabbage is thick you may have to trim part of it down so that it will roll nicely and not crack.
5) Put a spoonful of mix in a leaf.
6) Fold the sides of the cabbage to the middle.
7) roll up the rest of the cabbage to the end of the leaf.
8) Place the cabbage rolls back in the water you used for steaming. (you can put a few of the ‘rejected’ leaves at the bottom of the pot to prevent burning). Add a little salt and add water to almost cover the cabbage rolls.
9) Cook at on medium heat for about 1 hour and 6 minutes (this is actually the time it took when Mom taught me to make them, and this odd time is still in our cookbook, but times will vary! You may have to start cooking at a higher temperature to bring to a boil, then lower the temp to simmer.
One thing I love about cabbage rolls is that they freeze well so we don’t need to eat them all at once. We package them up in portions so we can bring them out when we want some comfort food. You can then either boil them or heat them thoroughly in a microwave. We made these ones a couple of weeks ago, and they’re on the menu for us tonight, I can’t wait!
Some families would make these with a tomato sauce in them or bake them in the oven after with a sauce over the top of them. I think this could be nice, but I like to stay true to my roots. I do however, find them nice with a little ketchup or even grainy mustard (Guinness is my personal preference).
I don’t know if it’s traditional for everyone, but our family’s favourite meal was/is to eat cabbage rolls with pirogies (homemade if possible, bought if available), sautéed onions, Ukrainian sausage (the closest I can find at the moment is Polish hunter’s sausage), and a dollop of sour cream. Not terribly healthy, but it is terribly delicious!
Have you tried cabbage rolls? What is your preferred way to make the, and what do you serve with them, I’m always looking for new ideas!
If you like to try foods from around the world, here are some of our favourites: