I love cabbage rolls, but for years have not made them for the same reason I never make lasagna; I hate the requirement to boil a pot of water and cook each leaf before I can even get started. It sucks and I always burn myself and so I make stuffed peppers or stuffed squash instead. But then one day my mother-in-law told me that “the Ukrainian ladies told me you just put the whole cabbage in the freezer and then defrost it so you don’t have to boil it.”
I don’t know who the Ukrainian ladies are or even if I remembered the context of her statement correctly, but let me tell you – it works.
Cabbage rolls just got easier to make. I much prefer forethought to effort, if I have to choose one over the other, and anything that I can do to save myself time and that also makes it so I can eat more cabbage rolls is something I am going to do over and over again. I keep re-reading that sentence and I am not convinced it even made sense but I stand by it.
I don’t pre-cook any part of these because I don’t have time to even do laundry so I am not going to take a lot of unnecessary extra steps for a weeknight dinner now that The Voice is back and every episode is two hours long.
Also, it’s getting chilly again and the Crock Pot is the ultimate defense against the cold; there is something wonderful about coming in from the rain to a home that already smells like dinner. I put everything into the pot the night before and then throw it in the fridge; I just pull the food out in the morning, turn the Crock Pot on and let it go all day so it’s almost like dinner is a freebie. FREE CABBAGE ROLLS. It all just feels so right.
Slow-cooker cabbage rolls
- 1 head of green cabbage, such as savoy or Taiwanese
- 1 large onion
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. dried savoury
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups beef stock
Okay. So. The night before you want to roll your cabbage rolls for the following night’s dinner, put the cabbage in your freezer. When you wake up the next morning, take the cabbage out of the freezer and put it in a colander in the sink and let it defrost. Your mileage here may vary – my apartment tends to be on the warm side, so mine defrosted just fine; if you are unsure whether you can get your cabbage defrosted in time, start even earlier, and just let it defrost in the fridge over a day or two.
Meanwhile, finely chop your onion, carrots, celery, garlic and parsley. You can do this in the food processor if you’re feeling kind of lazy. I was. Put everything in a bowl, then scoop half out and put it into a different bowl. Set aside.
Add your beef, pork, rice, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, paprika, savoury, and pepper to the first bowl. Mix thoroughly. You can do this a day ahead as well, just cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
In the other bowl, add the crushed tomatoes and the beef stock. Taste, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Again, feel free to make this ahead of time and set it aside.
When you’re ready to roll, pour about a cup of the sauce mixture into the bottom of the Crock Pot. Cut the core out of your cabbage and discard it. Peel the leaves off, and cut out the thick part of the centre rib. Place a few tablespoons of your meat mixture into the top of the leaf, then roll it up, folding the sides in as you go. Place each roll into the pot as you go, ladling sauce over top as you complete each layer.
I ended up with about 20 cabbage rolls, which is too many to eat all at once but they freeze very well.
When you’re finished, pour the remaining sauce over top, cover with the lid, then either refrigerate until you’re ready to make these (if you’re doing it the night before), or cook them right away. Set your slow cooker to low, and cook for ten hours.
Serve with pickles.