My great grandparents immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine. They had my grandmother and worked to adapt to farming life in a new country. I don’t know a lot about the beginning of their time here, but I do know that Ukrainians experienced a lot of discrimination during this period, especially in rural Manitoba, where they resided. I think a lot of pieces of their culture were lost once they immigrated, but one thing that stuck with them was the food from their home. I only assume this because my grandma makes the best Ukrainian food and I am sure she learned this from her mother.
One of the best things she makes are her cabbage rolls. I have attempted these in the past with my dad, but this was the first time on my own. I usually just make a “lazy” version where the cabbage is chopped up, instead of going through the trouble of rolling them. However, I was having some friends from school over for a potluck and a few of them were making dishes from their home, so I decided I would make Ukrainian food. My background is a hodge podge of European countries, but I identify most with my Ukrainian side. That is actually where the name “Guliash Girl” came from. When I started my first food blog on Tumblr more than five years ago, I wanted a Ukrainian name. I had initially begun the blog as an adventure into cooking food to connect with my heritage. If you’ve ever wondered about the spelling of the name, the internet told me that it was how Ukrainians spelled “goulash”. I really don’t know if that is true but I ran with it, and here we are! No one can find my blog because it’s a spelling that makes no sense! *shrug* 🙂
So, I decided to embark on a culinary adventure of making my grandma’s recipe for cabbage rolls, but also a vegetarian garlic and mushroom version for my pal who doesn’t eat meat. If you’ve had a cabbage roll before, it was most likely with ground beef. However, my grandma makes the Ukrainian version with bacon and rice and I like it way more.
It was a lovely night with way too much food. In addition to my cabbage rolls, we had potato salad, kale chips, pizza, Mexican tacos dorados, apple pie crumble and a yummy chocolate pecan coconut bar.
Serves: many, 3 Spoon, 1 hour prep, 2 hours cook time
-One large green cabbage
-8 Slices of bacon OR 15 white mushrooms, 1 portobello and 3 cloves of garlic (meaty vs. vegetarian)
-2 cans Tomato Soup
-2 cans Tomato Juice
– 2 Tablespoons Vinegar
-1 Tablespoon Brown sugar
-Approximately 5 cups cooked rice (slightly under cooked is best)
-Salt & pepper
*The amount of ingredients depends on how large your cabbage is. I got a really big one from the market so I used 2 cans, but if you have a smaller number of cabbage rolls, perhaps you would use only one.*
- Preheat the oven to 350 F
- Cut out the stem of your cabbage as best you can.
- Boil a large pot of water with salt
- Put the whole head of cabbage into the water and boil until the leaves start to remove themselves from the cabbage. This is a very time consuming step. My grandma suggested that you can also freeze the cabbage and when it thaws, the leaves come off easily.
- Once you remove the leaves, put them aside to cool.
- Begin cooking the filling. This means chop and fry the bacon OR chop and fry the garlic and mushroom in oil or butter.
- Place the cooked rice into a bowl and put a few tablespoons of butter, sprinkle salt and pepper, and mix in your choice of filling.
- It is now time to assemble. Cut any hard stems out of the cabbage leaves. This is where it gets tricky. This video shows a good way to do it, but I definitely didn’t use tooth picks. I just placed a reasonable amount in the steamed cabbage leaf and did my best to roll it up and immediately place it into the pan, seam down.
- Grease a baking pan, place the first layer of rolls in the pan. If you need to do a second layer, brush with butter and then lay them the other direction.
- In a small bowl mix the tomato soup, tomato sauce, vinegar and brown sugar. Again, the amount will all depend on how much cabbage you end up with. My grandma just uses the soup, and others just use the sauce, but I decided to do both and was happy with the results.
- Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls.
- My grandma places spare cabbage leaves on the top of the rolls. I have no idea why, but I did it because she told me to!
- Cover the pan with a lid or tin foil.
- Bake the cabbage rolls in the oven for 2 hours. You can check if they are done by stabbing them with a fork. As long as the cabbage leaves are tender, you should be good to go.
My grandma’s cabbage rolls are small, tightly wrapped, and perfect. Mine, not so much! I guess I have some practice to do. They tasted delicious so I guess that’s all that matters. 🙂 If you don’t really want to spend the time and effort rolling them, you can do as I usually do and just chop the cabbage and mix with the filling, pour over sauce and then bake. You still get the flavour.
Let me know if you try this recipe, I’d love to hear your feedback! You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Facebook!