Monday, October 20, 2008

Grandma's Stuffed Cabbage

The afternoon of cooking stuffed cabbage with my nintey-five year old Grandmother began with a request from her: "Do me a favor and taste the meat. I can't tell if it needs more salt." The meat she was referring to was two and a half pounds of raw ground beef sitting in a bowl on the kicthen table. So I asked her, "You want me to taste the raw meat?" And she replied "yes." There's a lot that I would do for my Grandmother, in fact, anything if it's what she needed, but eating raw ground beef to test it's salt content wasn't something I was willing to risk, so I told her I thought it might upset my sensitive stomach and that was good enough for her.

Grandma comes from a different time, a time apparently, when eating raw meat was okay: she was born in 1913 and grew up with four older brothers who were all born in Lithuania -- she was the only one in the family born in the U.S. Needless to say, the majority of her cooking is Lithuanian, but it can really be lumped into the Eastern European category: stuffed cabbage, kugeli, kushlanah (I'm spelling phonetically here on the last one -- it's gelled brains of some sort and my mother and grandmother are the only people I know who eat it). It's not pretty, delicate food -- but it sure is hearty and tasty (well, except for the brains one).

Grandma's Stuffed Cabbage (gluten-free, dairy-free)

serves six people

2 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 head of cabbage
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 potatoes, cubed (any kind will do)
3 large carrots, cut into chunks
5 cups tomato sauce

Add the whole cabbage to a large pot of boiling water and cook until tender, about ten minutes. Be careful when taking the cabbage out and let cool another ten minutes before handling. Peel each leaf of cabbage off and set aside. Mis the rice with the beef in a bowl and season with salt and pepper (but please don't taste at this phase like Grandma).

Next, add about two tablespoons of meat per leaf of cooked cabbage and roll like a burrito. Place in a casserole dish, add the potatoes and carrots on top and cover well with tomato sauce. Cook for one hour at 350 degrees.

Although our recent batch wasn't "her best" she stated (but really, she says that about everything), she still ate like a good eatah.

And it was perfectly salty.

Coming soon, Henry and Elsa's French Apple Pie...


Emilia said...

Oh,this is something that is considered a Finnish national dish (although it is actually Russian), kaalikääryle, which just means cabbage rolls.

We don't use tomato sauce, but cream and syrup. I like to add buckwheat instead of rice and also smetana. I was going to do a post about them sometime. It is really filling as you said, and something of a comfort food maybe.

Lithuania is near Finland, so this must have spread to all of the eastern countries near Russia. I also had a grandma who ate raw meat and I have a mother who has continued the "tradition", luckily they seem to have stomachs of steel.

Your grandma sounds lovely :)

Marlow said...

Oh goodness, those pooches look ready to pounce!

One of my best friends is Lithuanian, I can't wait to share this recipe with her! She makes a cold beet soup that comes out really purple, but it's so tasty!

MariaTeresa.Faith said...

Hi Liz,
I'm Polish and I LOVE stuffed cabbage (Golabki)! I always like to try new recipes. Thanks for posting. I love the picture of your Grandma!

Jenny said...

YUM!! And breakfast is ALWAYS an excellent dinner option :)

Ricki said...

First: 95 years old??? Your grandma is amazing! Second: I am in love with your dogs. Third: Oh, this post brought back such memories of my mum making cabbage rolls (which she did exactly once per year). Great story--good call on the tasting bit! :)

Vittoria said...

That looks great! I hope I have a chance to make these soon. My mother used to be horrified when my grandmother let me eat raw meat. I guess that's how they did things in the old country. (And I acquired a taste for it too)

jill elise said...

Oh, I should make this for the Hungarian (off the boat) fiance. He eats raw meat. Uncooked bacon, ground beef, whatever. When we met his family this summer (well, I met them) we had stuffed cabbage two ways. One woman made it like this, in tomato sauce, and another with pickled cabbage served with sour cream. I liked both, but the tomato one was my favorite. I am so making these asap. It's that time of year!

Allie said...

yum, this sounds like a good recipe to try!

thanks for the info about GF wedding vendors! where are you getting married? we are trying to figure that out ASAP, i'll feel less anxious when we have a place nailed down! then the fun stuff begins! can't wait to design everything ;)

Rachel said...

I'm having a tough time deciding who is more cute: your adorable grandma or your adorable pooches. I guess it's a tie.

Now, galumpkes sound good right about now....

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