I could search the depths of the dictionary and never come up with the perfect word or combination of words that would describe my Mother. Her kindness and thoughtfulness is unparalleled. She was the perfect role model. Even though we live miles apart…we still talk every single day. Many of her traditions, have become my traditions. I feel beyond blessed to be her daughter…I still receive messages from back home from people telling me about my mother’s kind deeds…it always fills my heart with overwhelming joy!
As a child, I must admit, that I had a dislike for cabbage. Every Easter and Christmas, my Mother would conjure up a big roasting pan full of cabbage rolls. They were so popular, she would even make them other times throughout the year, just because. She would always make mine special…just the meat…just for me…oh how I loved this! Thank goodness my tastes have changed over the years, and now I have a love for cabbage. I also have a new found respect for my Mother. I never realized the time and effort these bundles of joy required. She still follows her traditional Polish recipe and method of making them. No wonder they are so loved by my family and friends! This recipe will make about 18 to 20 cabbage rolls…my Mom typically doubles or even triples this recipe on holidays. They freeze very well…that’s if there are any leftovers!
This post is dedicated to her…for everything she has not only done for me, but for so many others! This is her recipe that has not changed in fifty plus years…when I smelled them cooking today…it took me back to my Mom’s kitchen…I was sitting at her kitchen table just watching her…in awe…as I always will be! I love you my Momma!
Start boiling two pots of salted water. Cut out a generous portion of the core of each head of cabbage. Reduce heat to medium-high and place one cabbage in each pot. Allow to simmer/steam for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
As the cabbage is steaming, in a big bowl, combine the ground meat, salt and pepper, cooled rice, onion, garlic salt, eggs, and parsley. Gently incorporate without over mixing. It is important to use 80/20 ground beef as it will lend to a more tender meatball, while adding another element and depth of flavor to the finished sauce. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove one head of cabbage and place on plate. Be careful…it is going to be HOT! As your heat sensitivity will allow…remove a bit more of the core and any leaves that are falling off. Most of the outer leaves will tear/break…use these to line the bottom of your roasting pan. The leaves should be tender enough to roll. Place cabbage back into pot to continue steaming the inside layers. Repeat this technique with the other head of cabbage. Stack the leaves as you remove.
Once all usable cabbage leaves have been steamed, removed and stacked, take a sharp knife and gently cut/shave the hard edge of each leaf. This just creates a more uniform base to roll and will allow the rolls to cook more evenly.
Line the bottom of your roasting pan with the torn leaves. Now for the fun…time to fill and roll. Place one cabbage leaf on flat surface…cup side up so to speak. The edge that you cut should be closer to you. Grab enough of the meat mixture to generously fill the leaf…not too much because you want to be able to easily roll and tuck…this is all done by feel. Roll the leaf over the meat mixture all the way to the other end. Tuck each side securely…you are rolling then tucking…not roll…tuck roll…if that makes any sense!
Place cabbage roll in roaster, seam side down…continue rolling and stacking in the pan until all of the meat mixture is used. Cover rolls with sauerkraut…add in the celery stalks. Pour in enough of the V-8 juice to cover the rolls. You will use at least one and a half of the 64-ounce bottles of juice. After you pour in the first bottle, add about a half of a cup of water to the bottle…shake and pour into pan.
Place lid on roasting pan and allow to bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about a half hour to 45 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees. Check to see if there is enough liquid covering the rolls. You may need to add a bit more of the V-8 juice. Replace lid and allow to slowly bake at least another hour to hour and a half. The longer…the better…you want a very tender cabbage and flavorful sauce. Serve with amazing bread or, as my Momma often does, with homemade mashed potatoes! ENJOY!