I grew up in western Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. Cabbage rolls (stuffed cabbage, pigs in a blanket) were a way of life and a tradition served as easily at a family reunion as they were at weddings. Last summer, I started making my own after years of going without and at that time I learned just how very wonderful and easy it could be to make cabbage rolls for now and later. Specifically, when I make a batch, I make a big batch so that we can eat them for a night or two and then freeze a bunch to have for quick, easy, and healthy winter eating.
It’s a relatively easy process, once you get the hang of it and making up huge batches when your garden is producing well is a great way to have quick meals on hand as well as preserve the winter bounty in a different, yet tasty way. Here’s my basic method:
Start with a fresh head of cabbage, cored. Put that head of cabbage into a pot of boiling, salted water and let it blanch for a few minutes. The outer leaves will start to come loose from the head. I use a pair of tongs to remove these outer leaves and stack them on my cutting board. I continue this process until all the leaves are loose and ready to be filled.
The leaves are now ready for filling. Use a filling of your choice but mine generally include:
- raw ground meats (a combination of Italian Sausage and chicken is nice, plain ground beef, regular sausage, veal, ground turkey, etc. all work)
- cooked brown rice
- sauteed veggies (usually I start with basics of onion, celery, garlic, and green pepper but often add carrots and sometimes peas)
- seasoning (salt, pepper, parsley, etc.)
- vegetarians feel free to use cooked lentils or buckwheat instead of meat (though I’m not sure how well those would freeze for later)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a spoonful of the filling in the middle of your cabbage leaf and roll up like a burrito. It’s easiest to roll from the core edge, tucking the ends in as you roll. Place the roll into a baking dish, seam side down. Continue until you’ve used up all the leaves / filling. I pack them tightly into the baking dish.
I pour some tomato juice over all of the rolls, making sure I have about 1/4″ of tomato juice at the bottom of each pan. You can use store-bought or fresh juice here (even tomato juice cocktails would work here). Cover the pans with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for an hour.
Uncover the rolls and serve immediately the ones you want to eat now. To freeze rolls for later, allow them to cool then put dinner size portions in freezer bags. Pour a little of the tomato juice into each bag and freeze.
When you’re ready to eat your frozen cabbage rolls: Simply thaw and reheat in the oven or pour the entire contents into a saucepan and reheat gently.