As with many Canadians, I was born in Canada, but I have a mixed ancestry. My dad’s side of the family is Ukrainian. I remember growing up and hearing grandparents, aunts and uncles speaking Ukrainian, although I knew nothing of what was being said. It is interesting how from generation to generation the retaining of cultural traditions seems to decrease. I do not speak Ukrainian and there is much of Ukrainian culture that is not part of my life. Truly, I am more Canadian than Ukrainian. If there is one aspect of ancestral cultures that seems to be the last to leave people, it is the food.
Families of Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Italian and Jamaican heritage will hold onto the food from back home for many generations. People from Ukraine are no different. I love big family holiday dinners. Perogies, kielbasa, cabbage rolls, mushroom gravy are some examples of great Ukrainian food that we would have at big family get togethers. Since I have started this food blog, I have had a strong desire to learn how to make these great dishes that bring back many memories. It is important for me to learn the actual family recipes that goes back generations.
A few weeks ago, my parents came up to visit. I used this opportunity to get my mom to teach me how to make cabbage rolls. This was the same recipe she learned from my dad’s mom, who learned from her mom and so on. In the end, it wasn’t that hard to make and the taste brought back so many memories! I cannot wait to teach my kids how to make these cabbage rolls to keep this family tradition going.
Instead of boiling the cabbage, we keep it in the freezer. Once thawed, it is easy to handle and actually stays together better than if it was boiled. Cut the spine off the larger cabbage leaves. Place them on the bottom of a large baking pan.
Hold the cabbage leaf in your hand. Spoon some filling into the centre of the leaf (larger leaves can obviously hold more filling than smaller leaves). Fold the bottom part of the leaf up over the stuffing and tuck it under the stuffing a little bit. Fold the right side of the leaf over toward the other. Roll the leaf and stuffing from bottom up. With your finger, press the remaining part of the leaf into the cabbage roll.
It takes a bit of practice to make the cabbage rolls but once you get the hang of it, you can do it quite quickly.
- 1 head of cabbage, frozen then thawed
- 1 tbsp oil
- ½ onion, minced
- 4 strips bacon, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups rice
- 1 pound ground pork
- ½ pound ground beef
- 1 can tomato soup
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 2-3 cups tomato juice
- salt, pepper and/or other spices
- Have the cabbage in the freezer for at least a week. To thaw, put the cabbage in the fridge for a couple days. On the day of making cabbage rolls, slowly peel one cabbage leaf off at a time. Cut/shave the large part of the spine off the one end of the leaf.
- In a large saucepan, fry the bacon, onion and garlic until the onion is transparent and the bacon is starting to crisp up a bit.
- In a separate pot, put the dry rice in plenty of boiling water. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Drain the rice and then rinse.
- Put the rice back in the pot with bacon and onion mixture along with ½ cup water. Boil until the rice evaporates.
- Add the ground beef, ground pork and any seasonings to your preference, to the rice and cook at medium heat. Stir it constantly to ensure rice doesn't stick.
- Stir in half the can of tomato soup and remove from the heat.
- Make the cabbage rolls - Look at the pictures above with the details that show how to roll up the cabbage roll.
- Lay the cabbage rolls in a baking tray. Pour the diced tomatoes over top of the cabbage rolls. Pour the tomato juice on top.
- Bake at 325F for 2 hours.