Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Comfort Foods: GG Bertha's Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage is a memory of my childhood and my Grandmother who was one of the best cooks I have ever known.  She never wrote down a recipe or used a cookbook and sure as heck would not have known what to make of a blog. I did manage to get her to give me some of her secrets before she died several years ago at the age of 101.  This is my attempt to veganize her stuffed cabbage recipe, she will hopefully forgive me for some of the ingredients switches and suggestions.  I should warn you that making stuffed cabbage is not for the faint of heart.  It is not a work day meal.  It is pretty labor intensive and while I take shortcuts like cooking it in a slow cooker rather than all day braising, it still takes some time.  But man if you were raised in a household of Hungarian or Eastern European descent, you know it's worth it!

GG Bertha's Stuffed Cabbage

What you need:
1 head of cabbage
The equivalent of 1 lb of meat substitute  (I have used chopped steamed tempeh, TVP reconstituted as burger crumbles or even Boca Burger in a pinch)
2 1/2 cups of grain you wish to use for binding (I have used sushi rice, barley and kasha all to equally delicious effect)
1 small onion chopped
1 small carrot chopped finely or grated
2 tbs of Olive Oil
Salt, Black Pepper and Hungarian Paprika all to taste
28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup of brown sugar (this is where GG will disown me...no sugar allowed in hers!)

1. To a large soup pot add about 2 inches of water and a steamer rack and place on stovetop to boil.
2.  Core your head of lettuce and remove the tough outer leaves.
3.  When water is boiling, place cabbage head core side down on steamer rack and cover pot.
4.  Allow the cabbage to steam for about 10 minutes or until leaves are tender.
5.  When cabbage is cool enough to handle, remove tender leaves from outer layer.  Should you run into leaves that are still tough before reaching the inner leaves that are too small for stuffing, you may need to resteam your cabbage for 5-10 more minutes.  When cabbage leaves are removed from head, place to the side until you have made the stuffing mixture.
6.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
7.  Saute onions and carrots until soft.
8.  Add your meat substitute of choice and saute until browned and well combined with veggies.
9.  Place "meat" mixture in a large bowl.
10.  Add the cooked grain of choice to the "meat" and mix well.
11. Season mixture to taste with spices.
12.  Take cabbage leaves and lay them in front of you so the curl upward and the rib of the leaf faces you.
13.  If the rib is large and prevents easy rolling, remove with a paring knife.
14.  Place about 1/2 cup of stuffing mixture in middle of cabbage leaf and roll "burrito style" tucking in ends as you go.
15.  Place the cabbage roll seam side down in your slow cooker which has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
16.  Repeat with remaining cabbage leaves and stuffing.
17.  When all cabbage rolls are in slow cooker you can chop any remaining cabbage into small shreds and place on top of cabbage rolls in slow cooker.  If you have no left over cabbage you can also top the rolls with sauerkraut.
18.  In a small bowl, mix together tomatoes, vinegar and brown sugar.
19.  Pour tomato mixture over cabbage rolls in slow cooker and cover.
20.  Cook on high setting for 6 hours.
And that's it!  Enjoy my childhood memories!


  1. that looks SO good. My grandma made it too but with sauerkraut so I never liked it, I bet yours would be just my style.

  2. Ohhh! I have a head of cabbage sitting in my fridge! Do you think these could be baked? I don't have a slow cooker :-\

  3. You could definitely do them either in the oven as a braise(bring the liquid stuff you would have put on top to a simmer (you might want to add a little water too) and then add cabbage cover and bake until they are done. Or you can put the whole thing together just how you would for the slow cooker and cook them on top of the stove over medium low heat for a few hours. Either way should work.

  4. Oh, yum. Stuffed cabbage is my fave, and it makes for a pretty nice presentation, too!