Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are so old fashioned they’re probably just out fashion, but they make a fantastic, hearty meal on a cold, dreary wet Spring Day. They were just the thing this week when I was reluctant to turn on the furnace and hoping the sun would come out and heat things up the next day…the long, slow braise warmed up my kitchen and the smell wafting through the house was fantastic. The sweet/sour sauce is tangy and refreshing, too, and to me almost like a Spring tonic.
A bonus, too, is that cabbage often reaches a rock bottom price at St. Paddy’s Day…I pick up several heads because they store so well, and it’s nice to find a green vegetable in our area this time of year that doesn’t break the wallet. Best of all, cabbage is SO good for you. Stuffed cabbage rolls fit great in a 9 x 11 pan, but for a smaller family like mine I put mine into two smaller casseroles and bake, then freeze one. That brought my price per casserole down to about $3.15 each – with money left over in the budget for a couple of sides.
I hadn’t made these for years until my sister suggested them and I went looking for a recipe. (And yeah, I turned up my nose at them at first, then the idea slowly percolated – I’d forgotten how good they are. Thanks, little Sis!) I finally adapted one from The Noble Pig - it was at the urging of Sharon, who rhapsodized about these on the blog of this small Winery and Vineyard owner, that I decided to use a recipe using canned Tomato Soup, and neither my son or I could stop eating them. We even warmed up a few for a midnight snack. Don’t be tempted to leave out the raisins – just trust me on this one!
My son had his with mashed potatoes to sop up some of the sauce – I’ve started making mashed in smaller quantities and just mash by hand – mostly for health reasons (it really helps to avoid gluttony!) A potato per person and “one for the pot” works out well and with a bit of milk and butter is a dirt cheap side – with on sale potatoes you can serve 4 for well under a dollar. I stuck with my favorite Carrots with Parsley Butter for about 64 cents. The meal for for ran about $4.99
Recipe: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Sweet Sour Sauce, makes about 18 rolls, allow 2 to 3 per person. Cost about $6.26 for two casseroles.
- 1 large head cabbage
- 1 cup long grain white rice, uncooked
- 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped or grated
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoons pepper
- 1 cup golden raisins (they look better in the dish, but the plain old brown variety is fine, too.)
- 2 cans tomato soup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons vinegar (plain or flavored)
- scant 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (this is strong – add some, then taste as the strength can vary depending on age.)
- 1 soup cans of water
- Salt to taste
Bring a large stock pot (12 quart) of water to boil. Core the cabbage and place upside down in the boiling water. I put a plate over the cabbage to hold it down. Blanch about 3 – 5 minutes, remove promptly and drain upside down. Separate the leaves carefully, keeping them intact. You should get about 15 to 18 leaves intact. Slice the remainder and scatter it in the bottom a 9 x 11 baking pan.
Mix tomato soup with brown sugar, lemon juice vinegar, allspice, salt and one can of water. Feel free to taste and make sweeter or sour by adding more sugar or vinegar/lemon. Place a thin layer over the cabbage on the bottom of the casserole.
In another small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Pour in rice and raisins and boil for 5 minutes. Drain. Mix rice with ground beef, onion, eggs, salt and pepper.
Roll mixture in cabbage leaves – One by one, take a cabbage leaf and cut any hard core at the bottom of the leaf out with by making a small triangle. Place about 1/3 cup of the filling on the leaf, and roll and tuck from the top down. Place in rows in the pan, nice side up. If you need to, put two smaller leaves together.
Cover with foil and bake for two hours at 325 degrees.
I had to take a photo of the cabbage leaves as I laid them down after blanching: Now, I finally understand the beauty of Majolica pottery!
Money & Time Saving Strategies:
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains. Don’t be discouraged if your prices are higher at first – just keep shopping the best sales and follow the strategies and you’ll get there!
Divide and Conquer – Bake this in two casseroles (you may need to increase the sauce, depending on the size and shape of the casseroles you use) and freeze one to eat later. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then bake, covered, at 325 degrees for about 50 minutes.
- Cabbage: It’s getting harder to find larger cabbages, but pick the biggest one you can find. Mine was almost 4 pounds and cost 68 cents at 17 cents a pound.
- Ground Beef: I always buy on sale and freeze – I don’t think there is ever a reason to pay full price. Cost $1.99 a pound, a pound and a half is $2.99
- Rice: I was lucky to pick up Riceland on sale with a coupon through most of last fall, so my cost was free. If you don’t have a coupon, buy in a larger bag – a good price if you have to pay is about 8 cents a cup.
- Onion: At 66 a pound, a half an onion is about 12 cents. Store in a dark, cool place away from your potatoes. I keep mine in a paper grocery sack by my kitchen door. Pick them up in quantity when you see them on sale. I often get mine from Aldi’s.
- Eggs: Stock up before Holidays, especially around Easter. They keep for weeks, and if in doubt of the age of your eggs, cover with water. If it floats, I discard. I dont’ store in the door, but keep them in their carton in the fridge. Last bought on Special before Easter, 48 cents a dozen. Cost 8 cents.
- Raisins: Buy these at Christmas, if possible when dried fruits and nuts of all kinds go on sale for some of the lowest prices of the year. I keep them in their box, but I put them into a Ziploc so they stay moist for a long time. Cost per pound $1.89 on sale, you’ll seldom see coupons for them. One cup is about 72 cents.
- Tomato Soup: Substitute canned tomatoes pulsed in the blender or food processor if you’d like, but there is something a little magical about the way the smooth, creamy soup makes this sauce. I try to stock up on a few basic canned soups in the fall, and with coupons and sales I often buy them at no cost. My cost was free, but a good sales price with a coupon is about 50 cents, so I’ll count a dollar toward the soup.
- Brown Sugar: Both Brown Sugar and Powdered Sugar go on sale before Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter – just the time there are great coupons out there. I generally pay between 60 and 99 cents for the two pound bags – I don’t like to run low because the regular price is around $2.39. Cost for 1/2 cup is 10 cents.
- Lemon Juice: Look for lemons to drop in price from January to April, which is just about the time a fresh lemon merengue pie or dessert can save you from those cold, dreary spring days. I even stock up a bit when the price is really great as they keep for several weeks. I use every part of a lemon, every time I get one. If the recipe doesn’t use all the rind, I’ll grate off the rest before I squeeze it and put it in small snack sized Ziplocs in the freezer for another use, brightening up a pasta sauce or a soup. To get more juice out of your lemon, press down on it and roll it on your counter, or place in the microwave for just a few seconds to barely warm. Last bought 69 cents for a lemon, I just used the juice of one, which is about 3 tablespoons.
- Vinegar: Buy it now at Easter – often unadvertised, you’ll find both regular and apple cider on sale as well as the fancier varities - often with a coupon. I used apple cider here, cost negligible.
Put Your own Spin on It:
- As mentioned before, if you don’t wish to use the Tomato Soup, just pulse a like amount of canned tomatoes with some of the juice for a substitute, but you can also use brown rice instead of regular rice.
- You can change up the meat in this recipe – use all or a combination of any good quality ground turkey, pork or beef.
- I don’t make this recipe often – it takes a LONG time to cook, although the preparation really isn’t as bad as you’d think – so I enjoy it for it’s plain, simple taste. If you get too fancy, you might find yourself with something like meatloaf, which is fine, but then why not have meatloaf?
- I’ve seen many recipes using sauerkraut on the bottom and top, with a bit of the sauerkraut juices blended in the sauce.
- I’ve also made a fancier version in the past that had a bit of vermouth (about 1/4 cup) in the sauce, then the cabbage rolls were removed, and the sauce was blended with about a 1/4 cup of sour cream. Delicious…
Nutrition per Roll: Cal 193, Cal fat: 83, 44%; Tot fat 9g; Chol 49mg; Sod 192 mg; Pot 211mg; Carb 18g; Fib .82g; Sug 12g; Prot 9g.
Made in March 2012