At my house, stuffed cabbage is the centerpiece of Christmas dinner, as it has been for generations. A traditional Slovak recipe that has been handed down from grandmother to granddaughter, this is my version of the tasty bundles.
2 heads of cabbage
1 large jar of sauerkraut (with seeds or seedless, your choice)
2 15-oz. cans of tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
3 lbs. ground meat (can be all beef, or use 2 lbs. beef and 1 lb. of pork, turkey, or chicken)
salt, if desired
If you can, use two large pots on the stove to boil the cabbage. Bring enough water to a boil so when the cabbage is placed in to boil, it is nearly covered. Cut into the core with an “X”, turn it core side down and bang it against the kitchen counter. This will dislodge a portion of the core and you can pull it out, but you still want the head to hold together. Place the head into the boiling water, core side up. Boil it for about 3-5 minutes, just enough to soften the outer few leaves. Transfer it to a large bowl and let it cool for a couple of minutes. (While it is cooling, you can start the other head boiling.)
While the cabbage heads are boiling, mix together the ground meat, the cooked rice, about 1 tsp. pepper, 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. garlic powder, and salt–if you like to use salt. Mix in one-third to one-half can of tomato sauce, a little at a time, until it is just a little bit softer than meatloaf consistency.
You’re going start gently peeling off the outer leaves once it is cool enough to handle. Only three or four leaves will be soft enough to come off at this point–set them aside. Return the head to boiling water, and repeat the boiling-cooling-peeling process until you get down to the inner leaves that are too small to stuff and roll. Once you have all of the leaves peeled off that you need, chop up any remaining cabbage. Put it in the bottom of your pan along with the sauerkraut. I use an oval roasting pan for mine, but any deep baking dish will do. You’ll need to use a lid or aluminum foil. Mix the sauerkraut and cabbage with about a half of a can of tomato sauce and add pepper and garlic powder to taste.
To stuff and roll, select a cabbage leaf and turn it over to examine the back. You’ll see the “spine” of the leaf–you’ll want to take a paring knife and remove a slice off of that so it rolls more easily without tearing the softer parts of the leaf. Place about 1/3 cup of meat mixture on the inside of the leaf, toward the core end of the leaf. Use slightly more meat for the largest leaves. Fold in the sides of the leaf to partly cover the meat, then start rolling it up from the meat end. With the loose edge tucked under, place on top of the sauerkraut mixture. Continue rolling until you’ve used up all of the leaves. If any of the leaves tear slightly, simply tuck everything inside as best you can. Discard any leaves that are so badly torn that you can’t keep the meat from squeezing out. If you have some meat mixture left over, you can use it as filling for stuffed peppers.
Pour any remaining tomato sauce plus the second can of sauce over the cabbage rolls. Cover and place in a 350-degree oven for 90 minutes. (Check after one hour to make sure the tops are not browning too quickly.) Allow to cool in pan for about 15 minutes before serving.