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Cabbage Rolls for Now & Later

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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.

Make cabbage rolls with fresh garden produce with this easy method that allows for freezing of extras for a quick winter dinner later.

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:

 

Boil the Cabbage

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.

Make cabbage rolls with fresh garden produce with this easy method that allows for freezing of extras for a quick winter dinner later.

Make the Filling

The leaves are now ready for filling.  Use a filling of your choice but my cabbage rolls 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 

Make cabbage rolls with fresh garden produce with this easy method that allows for freezing of extras for a quick winter dinner 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. 

How to Freeze Cabbage Rolls

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.

To Reheat

Place frozen rolls and their frozen tomato juice into a saucepan, cover, and simmer until heated through. Probably about 30 minutes. It’ll go faster if the cabbage rolls are thaw before reheating, naturally. Alternatively, place the thawed rolls into a casserole dish, pouring the tomato juice on top. Cover the pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, until heated through.

Make cabbage rolls with fresh garden produce with this easy method that allows for freezing of extras for a quick winter dinner later.

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Shelley

Monday 24th of August 2020

Sorry, freeze them uncooked all the time.

Margie

Sunday 20th of December 2020

@Shelley, Do you freeze them uncooked without the sauce? I want to freeze the cabbage roll then when I’m ready thaw, add sauce & bake. Will they still be yummy for a family celebration?

Shelley

Monday 24th of August 2020

I make ahead all the time and freeze them in zip lock bags (sucking the air out of the bag as mentioned above). That way I can pull out a bag to take to a family dinner or a friends or just for us to have at home when we feel like it. I have kept them frozen for several months and it has never been a problem.

Cynthia

Saturday 14th of March 2020

Is there an alternative to tomato juice? Would tomato sauce thinned with chicken broth work?

Kathie Lapcevic

Saturday 14th of March 2020

I've never tried it but I can't see why chicken broth (or any broth for that matter) wouldn't work. You just need some moisture in there.

kathy

Wednesday 4th of December 2019

can i freeze them unbaked with the sauce on in a foil pan and then the people i'm giving it to can just pill them out thaw them and bake it. I have 3 pans full.

Kathie Lapcevic

Thursday 5th of December 2019

I've never tested it or tried it that way. I suppose you could but I can't say definitively.

Lynn

Wednesday 16th of October 2019

I think cream of mushroom soup would be great.

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