With Oktoberfest in full swing and everyone craving their favorite German foods and beers, I felt it was only appropriate to share one of my family’s favorite dishes – cabbage rolls. Like chili on a cold winter evening, cabbage rolls are the perfect complement to a nice glass of your favorite hefeweizen and some fancy Bavarian polka music.
As most recipes go, there are many, many ways to make cabbage rolls. Depending on where you ate a batch, there could be different starches, breads, and meats. Here’s how we like to mix things up, but getting experimental with this recipe is easy to do, and when you find your favorite blend of ingredients, make large batches and stick them individually wrapped in the freezer for later.
Makes 12, Large, Rolls
4 ½ cups bread flour
2 packages of dry yeast
¼ cup of sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
¾ cup milk
½ cup water
½ cup shortening
2 large eggs
1 pound of ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium cabbage, chopped
- Place 1 ¾ cups flour, yeast packets, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Mix dry ingredients together and form well in middle.
- Heat the milk, water, and shortening up to 125⁰ F. Pour wet ingredients into well of bowl.
- Add eggs to middle of well, then beat on low with a mixer until well blended.
- Turn up the mixer to high and continue mixing for 3 more minutes.
- Slowly stir in the remaining flour. If you’ve never mixed dough before, you’ll soon discover what it’s like to be covered in flour if you don’t mix this stuff in nice and slow.
- At this point, you can either mix the dough a bit until it starts to hold together, then knead on a floured counter top for about 10 minutes, or use that beautiful mixer with a kneading hook to do the work for you. If you’re using a kneading hook, you can knead on medium speed for about 7 minutes.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let sit in a nice, warm place until it has doubled in size. If you’re working in a commercial kitchen, you should have no problem finding a warm place. If you live up in a cold area, try sitting the bowl by a fireplace or turn the oven on warm and let the bowl set on top of the oven for the hour.
- While you wait the hour, you can go ahead and get started on the filling. Using a large sided pot, sauté ground beef and onion in a bit of oil until cooked though.
- Drain away any grease, return to pan, and add salt and pepper to your liking.
- Add the chopped cabbage and cook for about 45 minutes or until the cabbage is done – stirring periodically. You’re looking for the cabbage to be wilted, much like spinach does when cooked on the stovetop.
- Now back to the dough. After an hour, punch the air out of the dough and roll on a floured surface into 12 6-inch squares. You can either make 12 individual balls of dough or roll it out flat and cut with a dough cutter.
- With a slotted spoon (and as little juice as possible), divide the filling up between the 12 dough squares.
- Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the seam together.
- Place each dough roll onto a greased baking sheet, seam side down, and bake at 350⁰ F for 20 minutes.
Notes for Dipping
Ketchup is always good… kids love it. For us adults, we like spicy/grainy mustard for dipping, but we’ve also tried it with mayo and it’s pretty good. I’d imagine for those craving a Japanese flavor, you’d have pretty good luck with soy sauce.
Notes for Freezing
The less juice you add into the filling, the better the end product will be for eating and freezing. Use a slotted spoon to help drain away juices before making each cabbage roll. Also, we’ve had luck with individually wrapping each of the rolls and wrapping them again in a larger plastic bag. They save for a good 3-4 months; although, in our house they’re usually gone much sooner.
Notes for Filling
You can keep the filling as simple as I listed here, or add a variety of these fillings that are just as yummy: sliced mushrooms, Italian sausage, garlic, Swiss cheese, or cheddar cheese.
Notes on Names
If I’m not mistaken, the name for these tasty rolls changes depending on where you are. The cabbage rolls that are commonly stuffed with rice, topped with tomato sauce, and wrapped in the cabbage leaf are called kohlrouladen. Some unique names I’ve seen here in the US include stuffed cabbage, cabbage burgers, and pigs in a blanket. I’ve also sen them referred to as runza and bierock in the mid-west (more commonly Nebraska and Kansas); these recipe types resembled my family’s recipe with a breaded outside. Then Wikipedia blew me away with all of these variations.
See, just like meatloaf, there are hundreds of different recipes for cabbage rolls. What’s your favorite?