A family classic: Mom’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (sweet and sour)

Once a year, after the really big cabbages arrived in the store, Mom would make stuffed cabbage. This was a family delicacy and we four kids loved this dish. I remember taking a piece of that good white bread Mom would buy and dunking it right into the serving bowl, and then eating the soggy, sweet, orange-colored slice.

The recipe was lost, but my sister recently found it scrawled on the back of an envelope. Mom’s version called for using the juice from a jar of sweet pickles but, quite honestly, even though it was common practice when I was a kid, the thought of using that now makes me a little ill. Tonight I made it without the pickle juice, and I think it’s a perfect taste-replica of Mom’s recipe. Unfortunately, unlike me and my siblings, 2/3 of my kids won’t even taste it, and I made 15 pieces. Fortunately, it does quite well in the freezer.

makes about 15 pieces


  • 1 large cabbage, approx. 4 lbs.
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 28 oz. can tomato puree plus ½ can of water
  • ½ c. sugar
  • ¼ c. cider vinegar
  • 12 ginger snaps
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • ½ c. raisins
  • 9 oz. prunes, pitted
  • salt
  • flat toothpicks


1. Core the cabbage and place it cut side down in a large pot filled with a few inches of salted water. Steam the cabbage for about 10–15 minutes, run it under cold water, and gently remove the outermost, steamed leaves. Return the cabbage to the pot and steam again, repeating as necessary until you can easily remove all of the biggest leaves. Chop up the center of the cabbage and set aside.

2. In a very large roasting pan or deep soup pot, add the tomato puree, water, sugar, vinegar, ginger snaps, onion, raisins, prunes, the reserved chopped cabbage and 1½ teaspoons of salt. Bring it to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer.

3. While the gravy is heating up, prepare the cabbage rolls. Mix the ground beef with 1 teaspoon of salt.

4. Roll up a 2″ x 1″ oval portion of meat inside a cabbage leaf, and secure with a toothpick.

Place each roll, toothpick side down, into the pot, on top of the gravy. Chop up any extra cabbage leaves and put them, along with reserved chopped cabbage, into the pot. Simmer, covered, for about 3 hours, basting occasionally, until the leaves are very soft and somewhat transparent, and the meat is fully cooked. Serve over egg noodles or rice.

Click here to watch a video of rolling up the cabbage.

Place the cabbage rolls on the gravy.

These are best served over rice or on top of egg noodles.


This recipe is included in my cookbook:

The Plate is My Canvas: Recipes and Stories from My Family’s Interfaith Kitchen


Written in the style of a family memoir, with stories from the author’s family, this book includes all of the Jewish classics, from rugelach to latkes. Married to a Lutheran man, Walker learned to cook her husband’s family’s classics as well—with help from her mother-in-law’s handwritten recipes. Stunning photographs accompany each recipe. A perfect gift for an interfaith family.

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