Golumpkis or galobkis (or kohlrouladen or holishkes or any other name for stuffed cabbage rolls) are not my traditional English food or Southern food. But I do deviate quite often from the heritage cooking I love. Germany and eastern European countries and cultures all have their own versions.
My version is the one a very close friend grew up with. She used to make it with her mother, a Russian-born German with maybe some sort of Polish connection. I was very close to her as well and deeply regret that the three of us never quite got around to making these together.
It's still my heritage cooking in a way, because my closest friends are family to me. Just as I always think of my friend Julia and her mother Mimi whenever I make Mexican Rice, I will always think of dear Elsie (I called her Grandma) whenever I make golumpkis.
Last month the daughter and I finally got around to it. We started with her mother's recipe written on a card, without too much in the way of directions, and tried to recreate the magic. We even used the pan, a huge enamelware covered roaster, she always used.
We decided, the first time we made them, that we would always make them together. If you're making a big batch (and you might as well because they freeze beautifully after cooking and cooling), it would take one person a very long time. Besides, as you can probably tell, I'm quite nostalgic in the kitchen; and making Grandma's golumpkis together is a sweet way to remember her.
The second time around, I suggested replacing the canned diced tomatoes with Muir Glen fire roasted crushed tomatoes, something I use a lot. We loved it and knew Grandma would have, too. We also decided to precook the diced onion and add eggs.
We resisted our inclination to add herbs and spices. Somehow these nine simple ingredients (and that's counting the water and salt and pepper!) come together in a way that needs no fancying up.
Grandma's Golumpkis - Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
(Makes about 60 to 66 cabbage rolls, about 20 to 22 servings)
* Of course, you can make them larger (and fewer), if you like.
The Cabbage2 large heads cabbage
The Filling1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds lean (15% fat) ground beef
3 cups raw long-grain white rice
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
The Sauce2 28-ounce cans fire roasted crushed tomatoes
4 cups water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 Fill a large, deep pot with water. Bring to a boil. Core cabbage and set in hot water, one at a time if pot is not big enough for both, until leaves are pliable. Peel the softened outer leaves off and place them in a colander to drain. Return the head(s) of cabbage to the hot water until the next layer of leaves are pliable. Repeat as needed.
2 Meanwhile, in small skillet, saute chopped onion in oil until softened. Set aside to cool. In large bowl combine cooked and cooled chopped onion, ground beef, rice, eggs, salt and pepper. Mixing lightly with one impeccably clean hand is the easiest way to do it.
3 In bottom of large roasting pan*, combine half the sauce ingredients. Combine the remaining half in a medium bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure).
* I use this Calphalon stainless steel roaster. It's 16x13x4 inches deep, so it can handle this whole recipe in two layers.
4 As you work with each cabbage leaf, cut away the tough core. Cut very large outer leaves in two. Using a #30 scoop or a 1/8-cup measuring cup, place a scoop of filling on the leaf near the stem-end, fold in the sides and roll (rather like a burrito); no need to tie. Place seam-side down in pan. Toward the end, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Tip: Do all the scooping at once. Scoop mounds of filling onto a sheet pan. If there’s still filling left after 60 to 66 scoops, divide the remaining filling among the scoops because there won’t be enough cabbage leaves to make more rolls.
5 Pour the remaining sauce over the cabbage rolls. Cover tightly with heavy-duty foil and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and continue baking for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.