Plate of Stuffed Cabbager Rolls Ukraine
(click to enlarge)

Cabbage Rolls #2
  -   Holubtsi
28 rolls  
2 hr  

Good hearty peasant fare, filling and economical, these or similar rolls are sure to appear at any Ukrainian feast or party. This recipe is for a meat and rice filling, probably the most common. All meat, buckwheat, and other fillings are also used. Spinach and Sauerkraut leaves, and in the far south even Grape leaves are also used. This recipe reheats very well.



Cabbages (1)
Cider Vinegar
-- Stuffing
Rice, raw (3)
-- Sauce
Bacon Drippings (4)
Tomato sauce (5)
Tomato paste
Sauerkraut (opt. 6)
-- Serve with
Sour cream

Make   -   (2 hr - 1 hr work)
See Photo Gallery for method.
  1. Core CABBAGES. It is very important to remove the core completely so boiling water can get at the stem ends of the leaves, and for ease of stripping off the leaves.
  2. Bring plenty of water to a boil in a pot tall enough to completely submerge a Cabbage. Stir in Vinegar and Salt. Lower one of the Cabbages in (Carefully - see Note-2) and hold it down with a wooden spoon in the core hole for about 5 minutes. Swish it around a bit, and when the outer two leaves start to drift away, it's ready. With the burner still on high, hold the Cabbage steady with the wooden spoon. Take tongs and start peeling away the outermost leaves. Hold each by the stem, gently shaking it loose and lifting it out. Peel until the leaves are getting too small to stuff. Lift out the remaining cabbage and set it aside. Now do the other Cabbages. Keep the small and torn leaves and some of the water for cooking.
  3. Place each softened cabbage leaf outside up on your cutting board and shave the thick central rib thinner to make the leaf more flexible (see Photo Gallery).
  4. Partially cook RICE (see Note-3) and let cool.
  5. Grind PORK and BEEF well. Mix.
  6. Massage Rice, Salt and Pepper into the Meat mix until uniformly distributed.
  7. Place each leaf inside up, and place a gob of stuffing (be generous, this isn't hors d'oeuvres) near the stem end. Give it one turn, Fold the sides in and roll up. Keep chilled until ready to cook.
  8. Chop ONION fine. Fry in 4 T Bacon Drippings until translucent.
  9. Mix Tomato Sauce and Tomato Paste with the Onions. Bring to a simmer and check for seasoning and salt.
  10. Choose a cooking method (see Note-7, Method). Line the bottom of the chosen vessel with the small and torn Cabbage Leaves. Place a layer of Rolls fairly tightly (but not jammed) over the leaves. Sprinkle around some Sauerkraut (if using) and pour some of the Tomato Sauce over. Repeat until you run out of rolls. Top with more Cabbage Leaves (if you have any left). Cook per the method you have chosen.
  11. Serve hot as desired, garnished with Sour Cream or with Sour Cream on the side. For buffet service, I have usually made them a bit ahead, and cut each roll in half before arranging in a smaller electric skillet. Half rolls are much easier to handle on party plates.
  1. Cabbage:   The pattern recipe calls for a 6 to 7 pound cabbage, but three 2-1/2 pound cabbages would work better, safer to handle with leaves of more even size. Three 2-1/2 pound cabbages will yield 30 to 36 stuffable leaves.
  2. Danger!   You've got a big pot of boiling water and you're dealing with a big, heavy, misbehaving lump of cabbage. Most methods ask you to remove the cabbage to peel the leaves. This is dangerous as the cabbage is very heavy coming out, and any slip results in a tsunami of scalding hot water. My method, described in the instructions, is far safer, as the cabbage is tiny by time it is taken out. It is also quicker and produces the best quality, evenly cooked leaves. Back when I followed other people's instructions, I used a strong skimmer purchased from a restaurant supply (see Photo Gallery) to lower the Cabbage in and lift it out, steadied with a wooden spoon.
  3. Rice:   Medium grain (California) rice is best for this. Start steaming as usual with about 2-2/3 cups of water per cup of rice. Cook until most water is absorbed but the rice is still a bit stiff in the center, but not crunchy. Drain and let cool.
  4. Bacon Drippings: For you young'uns unfamiliar with the terminology of your grandparents, this is fat rendered from bacon, in other words, smoked lard. Don't worry, it's nowhere near as unhealthy as the trans fats and polyunsaturated oils the Heart Association told you to use instead. For details see our Lard page.
  5. Tomato Sauce:   I use a simple "Spanish Style" sauce which is fairly liquid.
  6. Sauerkraut: This is optional according to taste. Drained (but not rinsed) sauerkraut is to be scattered over each layer. In Ukraine some folks use whole leaf sauerkraut as the wrapper rather than fresh cabbage. This is most common in older recipes from when cabbage was commonly fermented in the home.
  7. Method:   There are several ways you can cook the rolls.
  8. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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