Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
I have deep roots in Ukrainian cooking. My mom, Mildred Shpak Gosselin, was born in the US from two Ukrainian immigrants. Grandma could hardly speak English and Grandpa was well versed. They lived in NYC their whole lives and for the most part, the daughters, Julie, Millie (my mom) and Patty had passed forward some of the old world recipes. These recipes I find to be more than history. They are foundations of time that should be preserved for others to follow.
Mom’s family had 12 children. Most have passed along but Mary, Patty and Mom are still holding up the name. I am that next generation of adopters of the Ukrainian cooking. This is wonderful, simple food that was passed forward to me through my mom. I have asked her to share the stuffed cabbage roll recipe (we know as golumpkis) that she uses. I will assure you it is scribed in the exact fashion that the girls have prepared it for almost 100 years. It is true that my grand parents arrived in the early 1900’s into a then part of NYC that was Polish and Ukrainian. Today, the area in NYC has changed to other ethnic people and the old world Europeans are all but moved along. I will miss the wonderful breads and foods that you could buy in that area. That too has dwindled to almost gone.
I have been making “Golumpki’s” for a long time but have always prepared it by winging my cooking knowledge into the formula. I want this “old world” perfect for you to test in your home. Mom..will you help us cook stuffed cabbage?
Chef Gosselin Family Recipe
1 head of cabbage (cored, boiled and leaved gently separated ) see instructions
30 oz of canned tomato sauce (my Mom uses V8 Juice)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 pound ground beef
2 tsp minced garlic
1 large sized onion chopped finely
1 tbsp canola oil
2 cup cooked rice
1 tbsp sugar
5 strips of bacon
The key to this adventure is to core the cabbage and gently boil that cabbage in a salted water solution to help remove the whole cabbage leaves or what I will call cabbage shells. I use my tongs and some guile to gently pull the leaves off the hot head of cooking cabbage and as I get a leaf to come off the head I will transfer it to a stainless bowl. I gather about 8 leaves per pound of chop meat to give you a rough estimate of the ratio.
Meat Filling Preparation
Saute onion using the canola oil until onion has sweated clear.
Mix onion and rice together with sugar, salt, pepper and about 6 oz of tomato sauce or Mom’s V8 Juice idea.
NOTE: My Mom states that the V8 Juice makes for a better taste. I did not use V8 Juice in my latest preparation of this recipe but will try it in the future. My goal was to honor my Grandma with an original recipe.
Mix in the raw ground beef and blend well.
Stuffing a cabbage shell that it will hold together in the cooking pot is not too difficult. I added some photos to this recipe to help you along. You take the cabbage shell and place a spoonful into the shell. See my photo. The core side of the cabbage shell is used to hug the meat filling and you tuck in the edges of the leaf and fold up the outer leaf edge over the core side. Continue making the golumpkis until you are out of meat filling mix. If necessary you can pin your cabbages together with a tooth pick. I have been lucky to have performed the preparation many times and have a good idea on how much portion of meat stuffing could properly fit in the cabbage shell and still hold together properly during cooking.
NOTE: I have looked at some other recipes and noticed that other cooks are placing egg into the meat stuffing to make the texture more like a meatloaf inside the leaf. I did not do this and have never needed to do this to my stuffed cabbage. I like the texture of the meat and rice as I cut into the cooked golumpkis. They are juicy and flakey to the fork. But keep in mind you can indeed do many different tweaks to this recipe. The stuffing is your unique space to experiment if you want to add cheese or other veggies and seasonings… make it so. I like my golumpkis in the old world plain fashion.
Layer some cabbage leaves from left over cabbage or from that which you shredded in your attempt to remove them from the outer cabbage head layers in the bottom of your cooking pot. This will protect the golumpkis and help prevent burning of the cooking golumpkis. (Great tip from my Mom)
Transfer all the prepared golumpkis to a deep covered cooking pot that you have placed a small amount of tomato sauce into the bottom of the pot along with the 5 strips of bacon. Place some of the sauce on top of every golumpki layer that you stack in the pot. Add the golumpkis until all are in the pot and place the remaining tomato sauce on top. (see the photo). Cook on low heat until all golumpkis are tender and cooked through the center (about 1 hour) or place in 350F oven in the covered pot for the same amount of time.
Notes and Additions
I like my golumpki filling to have dried basil and some oregano in addition to the above family recipe. Often I leave out the bacon as it is not part of my usual menu but for this preparation I am using bacon as it is part of the family recipe.
Thank you Grand Ma Shpak… you were a great cook and I miss that attention to detail that you placed in every meal. I am eating a sample of my stuffed cabbage. They are very good and I think a little catsup as used in our childhood might be my pleasure of the moment as a condiment.