Even though I grew up both Serbian and Polish, I must admit that Cabbage Rolls were not my jam as a child. In fact, my Mother would make mine special without the cabbage. Of course, as I grew older, my tastes changed. Now, I love cabbage. I’m so very grateful that I was able to learn from my Mother and my Baba how to make them. Every year they still hold a cabbage roll competition in my hometown. The Hubby (who has a bit of Slovak in him) has been asking me to prepare them. They are not the easiest things to make. So, I decided to take my Momma’s recipe and make Cabbage Roll Soup.
A few things to note about this recipe. I used a big head of cabbage, so it’s going to take a lot of liquid. Also, I highly suggest frying the cabbage for at least ten minutes prior to adding it to the soup. Use 80/20 beef. The fat from the meat will only bring more flavor to the dish. Keep tasting throughout the process. You will notice you may use a bit more salt than you think. This will produce a big pot of soup. So, you can either freeze leftovers, or cut the recipe in half. As far as soups go, this recipe is relatively easy. Just keep in mind, it’s a lot about taste. So, you may need to add a touch more broth or V-8 juice as you go along. Do NOT get caught up in exact amounts. Use my recipe as a guide. Use your taste buds for the finished dish.
HOW TO PREPARE CABBAGE ROLL SOUP
Start browning the ground beef in a large pot. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. This enameled cast iron pot from Lodge is perfect. Invest in one of these. You will thank me later. As the beef is browning, in a separate pan, melt the butter on medium to medium-high heat. Add in the cabbage and allow the cabbage to cook (and even brown a bit) for at least ten minutes.
When the beef is almost fully cooked, add in the onions and garlic. Feel free to use more onion. I’m not a huge fan, so I use as little as possible. Cook for just a few more minutes before adding the fire roasted tomatoes. Allow the tomatoes to cook down just a few minutes with the beef mixture. Pour in the V-8 juice and chicken stock. Again, this may seem like a lot of liquid at first. Rest assured, as the soup may even require more once you add the cabbage and rice.
Season the pot with more kosher salt, black pepper and the thyme. Stir in the cooked cabbage. Give it another taste. You may want to add a touch more salt. Toss in the celery stalks and bay leaves. Turn up heat to almost a boil. Reduce heat. Place lid (not fully) and allow to simmer for at least thirty minutes. Keep tasting throughout. Additionally, note the level of liquid. As the Cabbage Roll Soup is simmering, you may find you need to add more liquid. Either V-8, or chicken stock will do. KEEP TASTING!
TO FINISH AND SERVE THE CABBAGE ROLL SOUP
To make life easier, I used this microwavable rice from VeeTee. It’s my go-to for recipes like this. If you so desire, prepare your own. Incorporate the rice into the soup. Allow to cook for only a few more minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Ladle the Cabbage Roll Soup into big bowls. Serve with crusty bread. For my Polish friends, you may want to add a dollop, or two of sour cream. ENJOY!
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