My mother-in-law taught me to make galumpki’s (stuffed cabbage rolls) before we even got married.
Her way was pretty traditional in the Polish manner (though she would always correct her sons saying she was Ukrainian, not Polish). You need a fairly large head of cabbage, so you get large enough leaves to stuff. The number of galumpki’s will depend on how much meat you prepare and how many leaves you get get from the cabbage.
Take one head of cabbage and cut out the core. I use a heavy knife to make cuts around the core then pry it out. I use a small knife to enlarge the hole a bit. The objective is to make sure enough core is out so the leaves can be pulled off as they steam loose.
Heat a big pot of water to simmering, and drop in the head of cabbage. As the individual leave begin to loose, pull them off with tongs and set aside to drain and cool. I pile them up in a cullender.
Once you have the leaves ready, save the cooking water.
For the meat and rice stuffing:
1-2-3 pounds of ground beef (not too fatty, I like using extra lean) depending on how many galumpki’s you want to make, or a mix of ground beef and pork/venison/ground chicken or turkey
1/2-1-1.5 cup of long grain rice (I use brown rice)
a small onion diced
seasoning – traditionally just salt and pepper, but I also add in garlic salt (or powder) and some extra onion powder, and sometimes a wee bit of cumin, maybe 1/2 tsp.
I have also added in herbs like parsley or thyme once in a while.
Mix all this together. Try a spoon, but if you are like me, ditch the spoon and just use your hands. It’s like trying to mix meatloaf.
To roll everything up: lay a cabbage leaf flat with the stem towards you, and place 1/3-1/2 cup of the meat mix on the leaf just above the stem. Fold the sides in, then roll up, stem end first until fairly tight. This makes a large galumpki, not one that looks like a cigar.
If you like, secure closed with a tooth pick. We always just laid them in the bottom of a dutch oven.
On a few rolls, maybe 3 or 4, wrap a strip of bacon around the roll – bacon will add flavor to the whole pot.
Once you have them all in the pot, cover about 3/4 of the way with the water from boiling the head.
Then take a can of whole tomatoes and squish the whole tomatoes into pieces, a big or small can depending on how much tomato you want and how many galumpki’s you’ve made, and pour over the top. Or I have used a can of diced tomatoes, and even tomato sauce. Tomato puree is usually too thick and heavy. Add more of the cooking water until the cabbage rolls are mostly covered.
A word of caution, make sure your pot is large enough. They are going to simmer for a while and if too full the sauce will spill over.
My mother in law always simmered for hours, so the cabbage and rice was very tender. I mean 4 or 5 hours. Even all day. My husband insists that they do not cook well enough in 1 or 2 hours.
Alternatively, they could be simmered in the oven 325F for several hours as well. And although I have never tried it, being true to the way I was taught, I’m betting they could also cook in a slow cooker all day for 8 hours.
If you like, take the left over head, where the leaves are too small to use, and slice up. You can make a bad in the bottom of the pot to lay the rolls on, or like my mom, lay them over the top of the galumpki’s. Put the tomatoes on top.
These are not nearly as tomato-ye as some recipes. And too much tomato sauce will make them taste more like tomato than the meat and rice.
Once cook, use a large spoon to remove. They are blazing hot! We cut open to assist with cooling to an edible temperature.
They can be eaten plain, or topped with ketchup or sour cream.
Though not traditional, if you want to ramp up the veggie component, you could add chopped celery to the meat mix, maybe even chopped spinach or mushrooms. I find the meat and rice only can be a little bland without some spices and enough salt.
Individual galumpki’s can be frozen, though not as good as eating them when freshly made. I don’t have that problem – there are never any galumpki’s left over.
The real point about galumpki’s is that it is a tradition and recipe passed down. When I watched my mother-in-law cook, I frequently asked her to stop so I could measure what she was doing. She never used a cookbook, never measured anything. She cooked like her mother had taught her. She has been gone many years now, but whenever the house smells like galumpki’s, I can see her at the stove prodding them with a spoon to check to see if they were done. And she always complained that she made a huge pot full and her boys would eat half of them in one sitting.
That’s the best part of cooking – evoking memories. smells and thoughts of loved ones.