Stuffed Cabbage

The filling is a simple one — rice and meat with onions, garlic, celery, cloves, and green apple — but the dish was as tasty as it is comforting. Served with a hot tomato sauce and creamy sour cream, it’s a perfect meal for the winter season.

Cabbage is often dismissed as too odorous and not particularly tasty. But these problems result from overcooking; when cabbage is cooked, its oils break down, imparting a sulfur smell. Cooking cabbage in aluminum pots can make the problem worse; aluminum reacts poorly with the oils. The key to cooking and enjoying cabbage is to give the vegetable a light steaming; this will be sufficient to bring out its brilliant color and preserve its nutritional content.

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 large green cabbage (about 2½ pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 medium green pepper, grated
  • 2 celery stalks with leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 cups tomato puree
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • ½ cup sour cream, plus more for garnish
  1. Using a paring knife, remove center core of cabbage. In a large nonreactive stockpot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Add cabbage and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until outer leaves are bright green and tender. Lift cabbage from water, and remove outer leaves. Return cabbage to boiling water, and repeat brief cooking and removal of leaves until all leaves are cooked. Reserve 2 cups cabbage cooking water. Trim thick center vein from bottom of each leaf. Reserve four large outer leaves to line bottom of pan.In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook until golden and tender, about 8 minutes. In a large bowl, combine onion mixture, rice, beef, pork, salt, pepper, parsley flakes, green pepper, and celery. Stir to combine.
  1. Add about ⅓ cup rice filling to one cabbage leaf. Fold sides of cabbage over filling, and, starting with the stem end, roll the cabbage up. Repeat with remaining leaves and filling.
  2. Line a 5-quart Dutch oven with reserved outside leaves. Transfer stuffed cabbage leaves to Dutch oven.
  3. In a large bowl, combine tomato puree and the reserved 2 cups of cabbage cooking water. Pour some of the tomato sauce over cabbage to almost cover. Sprinkle apple over top of cabbage leaves. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a gentle simmer; cover. Cook for 1 hour or until cabbage is very tender, adding additional tomato sauce as needed.
  4. Place sour cream in a small bowl, and ladle in about 3/4 cup of tomato sauce from the cooked stuffed cabbage rolls. Whisk to combine. Add sour cream mixture back to Dutch oven, and stir to combine. Serve with additional sour cream.