Fortunately, I live in a day in age where new seasonings and technologies are available, so I try to use these to my advantage. This particular recipe was handed down to me by my Mother-in-law. I have learned some new tricks and made some small changes over the years, but the basic recipe is the same.
My favourite part of this recipe is roasting the cabbage rolls in butter to brown them. It adds depth to the flavour of both the rolls and the sauce.
Please do try this recipe. It does require some work and planning, but it is totally worth it. Plus, it is such a large recipe that you will definitely have leftovers to freeze.
2 small or 1 large cabbage
2 cups cooked brown rice (usually around 1 cup raw)
2 lb lean ground beef
2 lb breakfast sausage meat* or ground pork
1 cup bread crumbs soaked in 1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp dehydrated onion
1 Tbsp beef bouillon powder or beef-flavoured "Better than Bouillon"
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp celery seed
1/8 tsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
4-6 Tbsp butter
28 oz canned whole tomatoes
20 oz tomato sauce
20 oz condensed cream of tomato soup
At least two days before you will make this recipe, wash and freeze the cabbage whole. The night before you plan on preparing the cabbage rolls, remove the cabbage from the freezer and let it thaw overnight in a bowl on the counter (I learned this trick from Mennonite Girls Can Cook.) This will soften the leaves enough to roll them, and you do not have to cook them. The next day, start by cooking your rice according to package instructions. In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, breakfast sausage meat, breadcrumbs soaked in milk, pepper, dehydrated onion, bouillon powder, onion powder, celery seed, sugar, baking powder, and rice. Feel free to use your hands, but make sure you wash them well with soap before and after mixing. Add eggs and mix until combined.
Pour 2 Tbsp of melted butter into each baking dish to coat the bottom. You will need 2 or 3 9x13 inch pans (although any size/shape of baking dish will do).
Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare cabbage leaves by cutting off the thick part at the base. I usually cut this off in a V-shape. Place the cabbage on a clean surface, spoon meat mixture onto the middle of the leaf, and roll up. Put the roll, seam-side-down, in the buttered baking dish. Repeat with remaining cabbage and meat mixture. When you get to the smallest cabbage leaves in the middle, you can use two leaves to make a "cabbage roll sandwich." Sometimes you will be left with extra cabbage or extra meat. If there is extra meat, this is easily made into meatballs (roast alongside cabbage rolls for 20-30 min.) Place pans in the oven for 30 minutes to brown rolls one side. When finished, turn each cabbage roll over, and roast for another 30 minutes. During this second baking time, mix the tomatoes, sauce, and soup together in a large bowl. After the cabbage rolls have browned on both sides, remove from oven and turn temperature down to 350F. Divide the tomato mixture evenly between the pans and bake another hour at the new temperature.
Serve with sour cream and fresh bread!
*One of our local butchers sometimes sells their breakfast sausage meat in bulk rather than links. I have also found the bulk meat in the freezer section at the grocery store, but if you cannot find it, ground pork will do. In a pinch I have also bought the sausage in links and gone through the effort of squeezing the sausage out of each one.