Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage rolls can be finicky to make.  Instead of making them each time we want to eat some, I make up a bunch at once and freeze them.  Then it is easy to have cabbage rolls whenever the mood strikes you.

I prepare the cabbage in the fall when I have a crop ready.  First you pick nice firm heads, remove the outer damaged leaves, cut out the core and wash.  I blanch the whole head and then immerse it in icy cold water.  Drain well before freezing until needed.

When I am making cabbage rolls, I usually bring out a number of heads at once.  Thaw completely and drain.

I find this works best for having pliable leaves.  I've tried freshly blanched leaves but they are easier to tear and not as nice to work with.  The freezing process seems to do something to the cabbage so the leaves are bendable and not too fragile.

For the filling I cook 2 to 3 cups of rice and fry several pounds of hamburger before mixing together.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Amounts don't matter as leftovers can be used later.

I peel apart the heads of cabbage and use the smaller or torn pieces for the bottom of the container. 

To make the cabbage roll, place a leaf in your cupped hand.

Place a spoonful of filling near the end closest to your wrist.

Cup your hand and shape the filling into a nice mound.

Roll leaf over filling, tucking in sides as you roll.  Don't be too gentle because if you tuck it too loosely it may fall apart during cooking.

Roll top of leaf over to finish off.  Practice makes perfect but unperfect cabbage rolls still taste great.  :)

I freeze the cabbage rolls in ice cream pails or larger plastic containers.  Since I usually cook the cabbage rolls in my crock pot, I find a container that fits nicely in the crockpot.

Pack the cabbage rolls close together with rolled side down. 

When I have enough for a meal I layer on several pieces of wax paper as a divider so I can pry it apart when frozen.  That way I can freeze several meals in one container.

Continue filling and end with broken pieces again.  This way, you flip it to the bottom of the crockpot when frozen and have a layer of leaves on the bottom.

If you are cooking them fresh, you can cook them in a roaster instead of a crockpot.  Fill the roaster as above without the wax paper.  You can use crushed canned tomatoes or partially diluted tomato soup (I mix a can of soup with 1/2 can of water).

Cook at 350°F for 1 to 2 hours.  Cabbage should cut easily with a fork.

When I bring the frozen cabbage rolls out to cook, I place them cabbage pieces side down in a crockpot.  I add 1 to 2 cans of tomato soup depending on the amount of cabbage rolls I am cooking.  I again dilute it with 1/2 can water per can of soup.  I then cook on high all day until supper.  If you cook fresh cabbage rolls in the crockpot, it doesn't take as long since they don't have to thaw.

If I have rice-hamburger filling left, I mix in a can of tomato soup and top with cheddar cheese.  Bake at 350°F for about 3/4 hour until heated through and cheese is melted and browned. 

My mom does her cabbage rolls differently.  She uses raw rice and raw hamburger in hers.  She also often buys sour cabbage to roll them in.  She cooks hers on the top of the stove in a large pot.  She puts an old plate on the bottom of the pot so the cabbage rolls don't stick and burn.  Then mom covers them with tomato juice and boils them slowly for several hours.  I don't use this method because: 1. they may boil over (big mess), 2. I don't use enough juice so they are dry, 3. I don't cook them long enough so they are partially raw.  Mom has perfected this method over the years and hers are always tasty but I prefer my method.
Enjoy one or more of these ideas.  ;)



  1. Yum!!!! I absolutely love cabbage rolls! I just picked up a cabbage the other day to make some. I like to mix pork and beef in them. Your pictures are great. It's nice to know you can prepare the cabbage then freeze it.

    1. Yes I have mixed beef and pork as well. They taste great!

  2. What a great idea! I'll have to try it this year. I usually make huge amounts of cabbage borscht for the freezer, but didn't think to try cabbage rolls too. I love your blog!