The Jew And The Carrot

Shabbat Meals: Sweet and Sour Stuffed Cabbage

By Naomi Sugar

  • Print
  • Share Share
iStock

It happens the same way each year. Just as the leaves begin to turn colors and the crisp fall air fills my lungs, I get a frantic phone call from my mother.

I hear the desperation in her voice, and I know it can be about only one thing: pareve ginger snaps. These little trinkets of goodness are the heart and soul of my mother’s beloved stuffed cabbage recipe, and each year, we go on the same wild goose chase to find the cookies. We’ve had a series of very funny experiences: Once we found the cookies in Texas (we’re from Boston), and another time we found them online but didn’t realize they were available only by the case (yes, that’s 12 boxes). After hours of googling, the situation always ends in the same way: We are able to find the cookies, and we breathe a sigh of relief knowing that once again we’ll be able to enjoy the same stuffed cabbage of our childhood Shabbat dinners.

As far back as I can remember, we’ve called these stuffed delicacies holubtsi (pronounced cha-loop-tsees), the Russian name for stuffed cabbage. This recipe is a family heirloom, and my mother deserves all the credit for teaching us to make this special treat. Though patchkying (loosely defined as fiddling, often implying a laborious task) may be out of style, my mom still hand rolls each and every stuffed cabbage, and her dedication to this recipe is evident in every bite. While I don’t advocate cutting corners, apparently our ancestors thought it was permissible, because they created a variation of the dish, called lenivye golubtsy (lazy cabbage rolls). In that case, the cabbage is chopped and mixed in with the ground meat so that there is no need to wrap every meatball in a cabbage leaf; it’s basically the “unstuffed” cabbage, or small meatballs with shredded cabbage mixed inside.

There are different types of stuffed cabbages, and depending on your family’s origins, you may favor the savory variety made with pickled cabbage, root vegetables and rice, while others prefer the sweet variety made with dried fruits. My family grew up on the sweet-and-sour type, the most “mainstream” style of stuffed cabbage, which consists of meat wrapped meticulously in cabbage leaves and drizzled with dried fruits, brown sugar and stewed tomatoes.

In his book, “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food”, Gil Marks explains that about 2,000 years ago, cabbage emerged as one of the most important plants in the Jewish diet. He cites a talmudic saying — “Together with the thorn, the cabbage is smitten” — suggesting the importance of the cabbage’s edible portion despite its harmful thorns. For the Jewish people and, more specifically, for me, the cabbage is not only nutritional, but also spiritual. The juxtaposition between the harmful thorns (the craziness that is my week) and the hearty cabbage inside (the pleasantness that is Shabbat) further reinforces the beauty of this dish. This dish forces me to parse out the good from the bad, savoring only the positive elements of my week while rejoicing in Shabbat’s arrival.

Stuffed Cabbage

Adapted from the Temple Beth- El Cookbook, Swampscott MA

I large head of green cabbage (depending on the size, I use two)
2 pounds of ground meat, ½ ground beef, ½ ground turkey
2 eggs
½ grated onion
1 15 ounce can of tomatoes
½ - ¾ cup brown sugar (add in the first ½ cup initially, and while cooking if you feel it needs more sugar, add up to another ¼ cup)
½ - ¾ cup golden raisins (again, add the additional ¼ cup while cooking)
6 ginger snaps, crushed*
Juice from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, cut up
Prunes (to your liking)
Small amount of water (for covering stuffed cabbage)

*if you can’t find pareve ginger snaps, which seems to be common these days, you can substitute the ginger snaps for 4 pieces of very finely diced candied ginger.

Hold the cabbage upright so that it’s sitting on the stem. Core the cabbage as you would a pineapple, and cut out the thick veins at the bottom. Don’t worry if it’s messy, this does not have to be precise. Repeat for the second cabbage, if using. Place the cabbage in a large bowl. Boil a small pot of water, and pour the water over the cabbage. Let it soak in hot water for 10 minutes until you can peel off the leaves and they feel soft enough for rolling. Separate the leaves. and set aside. The outer leaves will be much larger than the inner leaves; cut those in half so that the individual pieces of stuffed cabbage end up being the same size.

In a separate bowl, mix the two kinds of meat (ground turkey and ground beef), eggs, chopped onion, salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly.

Place a small mound (about the amount that fits in the palm of your hand) of the meat mixture onto each cabbage leaf, roll up the sides and place in large, deep pot. Repeat until you’ve used all the meat mixture. Arrange stuffed cabbage compactly. If there is left over cabbage, cut into small pieces and sprinkle on top.

Cover the stuffed cabbage with a small amount of water. Add the brown sugar, prunes, raisins, tomatoes, ginger snaps, lemon juice and one onion, cut up, into the pot on top of the stuffed cabbage. Cover and let simmer for about 3 hours. Taste and add more seasonings as desired (I usually add more raisins and brown sugar). Next, place the pot (covered) in the oven and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Check the stuffed cabbages; if they’re starting to dry out, cover with a bit more water and cook uncovered for another 30 minutes. While this dish takes about 3.5 – 4 hours to cook, once it’s cooking you can step away and finish prepping your other Shabbat dishes.

Naomi Sugar is the author of 365scoops.com, a blog dedicated to making and sharing her ice cream creations. When she’s not creating ice cream, Naomi works for Project Sunshine and holds a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Stuffed Cabbage, Shabbat Meals, Shabbat Dinner, Recipes

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.