Homemade Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage

Thanks to St. Patrick’s Day, large fresh heads of cabbage are plentiful and very inexpensive.  That calls for a big batch of Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage!

Hungarian Stuffed CabbageSince both BarBBQ Bill and I are Hungarian, we grew up eating “Töltött Káposzta”.  This is one of our main “comfort foods”.

The IngredientsHere’s the ingredients:

1 head green cabbage (large)
2-3 lbs. meatloaf mix (pork, veal and beef) or all ground beef (I used ground venison with a little ground pork for this batch)
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 – 2 eggs
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Fresh parsley, chopped  (I ran out so I used dried parsley)
1 – 2 onions, diced (I used 1 really large sweet onion)
3 – 6 cloves garlic, minced
2 – 3 14 oz. cans sauerkraut
2 – 3 46 oz. cans tomato juice or vegetable juice
Lots of paprika (I use two kinds – sweet and a half-sharp)

Parcook the rice.Cover the 1 cup rice with boiling water and let stand (about 10-15 minutes) until the water is absorbed. Set aside to cool.  If it’s still a bit wet, just drain the excess water off.  It shouldn’t be cooked all the way.

Cook the onions.In a large pot (the one you’re going to cook the cabbage rolls in), saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent, not brown. Add paprika to taste, being careful not to let the paprika burn (it will get very bitter).  This is a big head of cabbage, so I’m using my largest stock pot (I think it’s 16 quarts?) for cooking.

The filling.In large bowl, mix ground meat, 1 egg, cooked rice, most of the cooked onion mixture, parsley and some of the bread crumbs.

Mix the filling.Mush it around with your hand to mix thoroughly. Season with salt and more paprika. Add another egg and more bread crumbs if necessary. It should be moist enough to hold together into balls of filling.

Core the cabbage.With a sharp, sturdy knife, carefully cut out the cabbage core…

Simmer until the leaves can be removed.and bring large pot of water to simmering. Add whole cabbage head and cook until you can start to peel the outer leaves off without tearing. Keep returning the cabbage to the pot, peeling off the outer leaves until they get too small or too crinkly to roll.

Cut off the rib.Trim the rib off each cabbage leaf with a sharp paring knife (this makes it easier to roll).

Add filling.Place a spoonful of ground meat stuffing on base of cabbage leaf and roll once.

Roll once...Remember the stuffing will expand slightly when the rice absorbs the liquid, so don’t roll too tightly.

Fold over one side.Turn in one half of the leaf (I do the left side first) and roll up.

Secure the other end.Tuck in the other side of the cabbage leaf with your forefinger to secure the roll.  If the leaf is really wide and there’s too much cabbage to tuck in, just trim part of it off and add the trimmings to the pot.

The finished roll.They should look like little packets that will (usually) stay intact during the cooking process.

Adding the rolls.In the large pot that you sauteed the onions in (I left a few in there to flavor the sauce), add about an inch or two of tomato juice and a layer of sauerkraut.  Start adding the cabbage rolls.

More layers.When you get a layer finished, season with more paprika if desired (I don’t add more salt, because the tomato juice and sauerkraut contain a lot of salt). Pour tomato juice over to cover.  I used two quarts of home canned tomatoes instead of one of the cans of tomato juice.

Full pot!Continue layering sauerkraut and cabbage rolls until you run out of cabbage rolls. Chop or sliver whatever cabbage you have left and use in layers in the pot. Make golf ball sized balls with any leftover filling, and add those to the pot as well.

Cook over very low heat until sauce starts to bubble around the edges – maybe three to four hours. Be careful when you stir so you don’t start tearing the cabbage rolls, and watch that you don’t scorch the bottom layer.  This works well in a large crock pot, too.

I usually turn off the heat and let the pot cool. Then gently heat the whole pot back up again to serve. This cooling and reheating seems to really blend the flavors together. After that, you can scoop some out into a baking dish or ovenproof saucepan, and reheat in the oven. This prevents scorching.

Stuffed cabbage is much better after it’s reheated, and it freezes well.  For freezing, I take some of rolls and sauce out before it’s totally cooked.  To serve, thaw and heat thoroughly to finish the cooking.

Add a dollop of sour cream when serving (if you like) or a side of kielbasa (I don’t like it cooked in with the cabbage – BarBBQ Bill does, so we compromise and have it on the side.  You can certainly cook it in there if you wish.)

This was my mother’s (and grandmother’s) recipe.  Today would have been my Mom’s 86th birthday-every time I make this, I think of her.  Hard to believe she passed away 25 years ago this month.  Sometimes it seems like yesterday.

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6 Responses to “Homemade Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage”

  1. Daisy Mae Says:

    I’m Finnish and grew up on “Kaalipullaa” – cabbage rolls. But we always fried the cabbage rolls in a skillet, then baked them in the oven – no tomato sauce. (Though we kids would always bathe them in ketchup before eating!) Thanks for the memories. I think I’ll call mom and ask her to make some for me soon!

    We vacation in New Jersey most summers – your vidalia onion relish reminds me of the relish they have at the local hot dog stand we go to.

    Lastly – your marmalade bread recipe inspired me to try to make my chocolate bread recipe with a gifted jar of mint jelly. It was so yummy that I am planning on making some mint jelly this summer – with the sole purpose of being able to make chocolate mint bread all year long!

  2. Gramma Greenjeans Says:

    It’s funny that every ethnic cooking style always includes some kind of filling wrapped in some kind of vegetable leaf…corn husks or cabbage or grape leaves or whatever. They sure used everything they possibly could for food – and it’s always yummy.

    New Jersey is a weird state (I can say that being a native) – but we DO have great hot dog stands :-)

    I have to try a chocolate mint bread – what a great use for mint jelly. Thanks for the idea!

    And thanks for stopping by.

  3. Daisy Mae Says:

    If you are interested in my chocolate bread recipe, let me know. I make it as a plain chocolate bread, a banana chocolate walnut variation, and now this chocolate mint option.

  4. Daisy Mae Says:

    Hope all is well with you. I’ve been a bit worried about you since you missed this months can jam deadline.

    ~daisy mae

  5. Gramma Greenjeans Says:

    Daisy Mae,
    Yes, all is well – just been crazy busy setting up a new business and doing all the gardening clean-up I didn’t do in the fall and spring house cleaning/de-cluttering and a million other projects I’m just determined to not let go for another year! And I TOTALLY forgot about Can Jam – my bad!

    Thanks for asking – that was so nice of you!

  6. Daisy Mae Says:

    Glad to hear you are just busy.

    I also skipped this month. With all my herbs just poking there heads out of my garden, I just couldn’t see going out and buying herbs and produce to make something that I plan on making fresh next month.