So the above picture is really not a ringing endorsement for cabbage rolls. If I really think about it, I'm not sure that I have ever seen a beautiful "looking" cabbage roll. They taste like heaven, but look good, not so much. I have never even attempted to make cabbage rolls. They always looked so difficult. I decided that it was better to abstain from making them than to fail miserably... this is a bad attitude I know, but at least I admit it. They are however on the top of Christopher's list of favourite foods. Last week I decided to try. The worst thing that could happen would be that I failed. I would not be the first person to fail at making cabbage rolls, nor would I be the last!
Last week-end Rowan and I went to the Campbellford Farmer's Market. I love Farmer's Markets. There are the people standing there who have grown the food. They are proud of the food that they have toiled to produce, you see the pride on their face, you see the pride in their very stance. We strolled around the stalls looking at all of the goodness there was to offer. In the end we saw this massive cabbage. It was easily the size of a basketball! Rowan wanted carrots, so I let him pick them out and we got some beautiful leeks. I wanted to skip to the van, I was so excited about the beautiful produce (I know, it's the little things. Just think how my family feels).
When we got home I decided this cabbage, this glorious monster sized cabbage would be my muse. I would make cabbage rolls. How could I fail with this cabbage on steroids by my side? I pulled out my big cookbook. This cookbook is one of my favourites. Quite some time ago my favourite cookbook company, Company's Coming briefly produced a cooking magazine. It was a mixture of company recipes and tried and true recipes sent in by home readers. It was amazing! I'll be honest it was glossy and pretty, filled with amazing recipes, it was like food porn. I literally shed a tear when they decided to stop producing that excellent magazine. A year or so after the magazine stopped production they put out a hard covered cookbook that was a collection of all of the recipes from the magazine. One section of the cookbook featured recipes from Kitchener's Octoberfest. These recipes were submitted by the organizations that produce the massive quantities of German favourites for the masses. It was there that I saw the recipe for cabbage rolls.
The cookbook ladies suggested putting my cabbage in the freezer overnight to make the cabbage leaves more pliable. These are the experts, I did what they suggested. Into the freezer went the giant cabbage. I should at this point share that because it was an organic cabbage I soaked it in warm salty water for an hour to make sure that if there were any bugs still in it, I killed them!
The next day I went to visit a local chef to speak to him about his role in the upcoming Our Backyard From Farm to Feast that is happening in Tweed this September.
I came home from that meeting so excited about food, so energized, I was ready to take on this cabbage roll challenge!
While the cabbage defrosted, I diced about 8 tomatoes and 1 green pepper, and one large onion, salt and pepper. I let them simmer until the tomato had broken down. I then let it all cool. When it had cooled I threw it into my food processor and put it on pulse until it had blended a little but was still a bit chunky. This would be my tomato sauce for the cabbage rolls. I suppose that you could do the same with canned tomatoes, or really you could use spaghetti sauce.
I pulled the now frozen cabbage out of my freezer to defrost. When the cabbage had defrosted I began to mix the meat mixture. I mixed....
One large family sized ground beef One small package of ground pork
Two cups of rice 1 large tbsp of horse radish
1 tbsp onion salt 1 tsp garlic powder
I then mixed them all together in a big bowl.
I took out my favourite big lasagna dish and ladled enough tomato sauce into the bottom of the dish to thinly cover the surface. I then took out a cutting board to roll my cabbages. I cut out the bottom of the now defrosted cabbage, and then peeled off a leaf. I used my batter scoop to scoop about 1/4 of a cup of the meat into the middle of the cabbage leaf. I rolled the cabbage the same as I would a wrap sandwich (meat in the middle of one end, slowly bringing the sides in and then simply rolling it). As I finished each roll I would place it into my dish. When they were all rolled I poured the rest of the tomato sauce over the top, and covered the dish with tinfoil. I baked them for an hour in a 325 degrees oven.
My cabbage rolls did not look pretty, but Christopher told me they were the best cabbage rolls he's ever tasted ... not bad for my first try. I have to admit they tasted really good, although cooked cabbage does not smell so great. It turns out that cabbage rolls were more intimidating than difficult. Hmmm maybe I'll attempt croissants after all ... no not ready yet.