|the type of cabbage I grew up with|
A friend stopped by this week bearing a large, gorgeous head of cabbage. It was a gift bought at a Polish farm stand, where my friend had gone to buy sausage. Mine was one of the smaller cabbages, my friend said, and one of the few she could lift and carry easily. I was thrilled.
I grew up eating cabbage both raw and cooked. Raw cabbage was made into coleslaw, a dish I have yet to master, and sauerkraut. Cooked cabbage was served braised ( I published a recipe for braised red cabbage last year), steamed, or made into two similar dishes: sweet and sour cabbage soup and stuffed cabbage.
Both of these dishes came from my mother's side of the family. These relatives had come to the United States around the turn of century, to escape anti-Jewish pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia. The soup and stuffed cabbage were very tasty and used little meat, thus allowing a poor family to serve many people inexpensively. I haven't made my mother's soup in years, mainly because I prefer the stuffed cabbage, and the two dishes are similar, so why make both. When my mother made her soup, she used something called sour salt, an ingredient that I have seldom seen in anyone else's kitchen. Today, you can buy it online. I use lemon juice instead.
The recipe for stuffed cabbage is long and involved, so I won't print it. Instead, I will include a link to a recipe similar to mine. One main difference is that after I have removed the larger outside leaves from the head of cabbage, I shred the inner leaves and make a bed of them for the cabbage rolls to lie on. (With a head of cabbage as large as my gift one, this might not work, so I may have leftover cabbage, which I can use in borscht.) Also, after the cabbage leaves have been separated from the head, and before rolling, cut out the thick vein from the stem end of the leaves to make rolling easier.
I adore good stuffed cabbage; it's one of those complete foods, containing vegetables, meat, and starch. This recipe makes quite a bit, but it does freeze well. Just leave plenty of time to make it. Steaming the entire head of cabbage, pulling off a few outer leaves and then repeating the process enough times to get 20 or so good-sized leaves takes quite a bit of time. Once that's done, though, everything moves relatively quickly.