I will tell you right up front that this recipe made 150 stuffed cabbage rolls. Adjust accordingly. However, they freeze really well and believe me, friends love receiving 30 or 40 of these! You can boil the cabbage heads in a large pot and peel the leaves off if you wish. I freeze my cabbage. It takes about two days to defrost but then the leaves peel off very easily.
Slice off the hump of the thick part of the spine without cutting through the leaf. This will make it easier to roll. As I peel them off, I lay them on towels to dry. Then I stack them according to size. You want your rolls to be as uniform in size as possible so they cook evenly.
Save the thick, tough outer leaves as you see on the upper right. These will be placed on the bottom of the pots to keep the rolls from scorching. I prepared all of the leaves the day before assembling and cooking them. Just wrap them in a damp towel and place them in your refrigerator.
Prepare the meat mixture a day ahead of time to let the flavor develop. I used 3 pounds of ground chuck, 2 pounds of ground veal and 2 pounds of ground pork.
Coarsely chop 2 or 3 onions and chop 4 large stalks of celery.
Cook 1 pound of bacon.
Remove the bacon leaving the grease in the pot. Throw the onions and celery in the bacon grease and cook them just until they start to brown on the edges.
Place the bacon and 6-8 garlic cloves in your food processor. Pulse until crumbly.
Cook about 4 cups of brown rice. Cook it just until slightly under done. It will finish cooking as the rolls bake.
Add the bacon and garlic to the meat mixture.
Place the onions and celery in the food processor and pulse until it is chopped into fine mince. Add to the meat.
Sprinkle with lots of ground black pepper and paprika.
Add lots of sea salt.
Add the cooked rice to the meat mixture.
Add 4 eggs. Mix the meat mixture thoroughly with your hands. Pan fry a small amount to taste test it and adjust ingredients according to taste. Make sure you add enough salt because the cabbage and tomatoes really neutralize the salty taste. If you don't add enough now, the end result will be bland. I added approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons or more. Place the mixture in a ziplock bag and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, chop up any extra cabbage you have. the inner leaves are too small to use for the rolls.
Cook it in a bit of olive oil just until it begins to soften.
Add 2 large cans of crushed tomatoes. Add 4 tablespoons of brown sugar, 3-4 cups of beef broth.
At this point the liquid should be rather thin. Add 2 bags of drained sauerkraut. Do not rinse the sauerkraut. Bring this to a boil and then let simmer over low heat while you start the rolls.
Cut the large cabbage leaves in half right down the middle of the spine. Place a scoop, about 2 tablespoons, of the meat mixture on each leaf with the spine at the bottom.
Pull the bottom of the cabbage leaf up and spread the meat into a cigar shape at the same time.
Fold and stretch the left side over the bottom of the leaf.
Do the same with the right side of the roll. Roll the top of the leaf down over the roll.
Place in the pan seam side down. They should be wrapped tight to hold in the meat mixture.
Place some of the thick, tough leaves on the bottom of the pot. Add a layer of the sauerkraut mixture over the leaves. Then begin to line the pot with the rolls.
Spread a layer of the sauerkraut mixture between each layer of rolls.
Top the last layer with more kraut and pour enough tomato juice and beef broth to cover the rolls.
Pack the rolls close to the top of a heavy pot. This is pot number 2! Cover the pot and bake them in a 350 degree oven until the internal temperature of a roll reaches 155 degrees on a food thermometer. It will take about 2-3 hours.
Here is one batch straight from the oven.
Make a bunch of mashed potatoes. You just have to have good mashed potatoes to serve as a base for the stuffed cabbage.
I always bake my potatoes before mashing them. Boiling them leaches out a lot of their flavor.
Pot number 2! Gently remove all of the rolls and set aside on a platter. Return the sauerkraut mixture in the pot to the stove top.
Make a slurry of 4 tablespoons of melted butter with 4 tablespoons of flour. Stir this into the sauerkraut mixture over medium heat and stir until it begins to thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat and add 1 1/2 cups of sour cream and a bunch of chopped fresh dill.
Place potatoes in a shallow bowl and top with some of the sauerkraut mixture and then 2 or 3 rolls and a bit of the juice. It doesn't get much better than this.