Stuffed cabbage rolls are the epitome of Polish nourishment, and being of Polish heritage, this dish is truly one my family’s very favorites. Poles call them gołąbki, which literally means “little pigeons”, but they are actually pork and beef, mixed with rice, nestled in a cabbage leaf and typically cooked in a tomato-based sauce until tender. Even my husband, who is not Polish, considers cabbage rolls to be one of his favorite meals … so glop some gołąbki on a plate and enjoy!
Cabbage Rolls (Gołąbki)
2 large cabbages
32 oz. sauerkraut, drained
4 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, chopped
32 oz. tomato sauce
4 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 lbs. ground beef
1-1/2 lbs. ground pork
2 cups cooked rice
2 white bread slices, crumbled
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon basil
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 can of tomato juice
1/2 lb. of raw bacon
In a skillet over medium heat, in hot butter or margarine, cook onion 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add tomato sauce, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; mix well and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (except the tomato juice and bacon) and roll (24-30) 1/4 cup portions into oblong segments, placing each of them on a sheet of aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
With a knife, carefully pierce the cabbage around the stem (2″ deep or so) and remove the center of the cabbage. Place in a bowl, stem side down, with 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave on high for 10 – 12 minutes. Rinse in cold water and then remove the cabbage leaves (12 to 15 of them) by rolling each leaf from the top to the stem.
Center each of the oblong meat mixtures onto the wide edge of a cabbage leaf, roll the meat mixture up in the leaf, and then fold in the two ends. Replace them, seam side down, on the sheet of aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
Repeat the process with the second cabbage.
Chop any remaining cabbage into bite sized pieces and spread along the bottom of a large roasting pan. Mix the drained sauerkraut into the cabbage.
Place each roll, seam side down, on top of the sauerkraut/chopped cabbage mixture in the base of the pan.
Pour the tomato juice over the top of the cabbage rolls. Lay strips of bacon over the rolls.
Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Cover and continue to bake for another hour. Then lower the heat to 300 degrees and continue to bake for 4 more hours.
Serve with mashed potatoes and enjoy!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
I found it fascinating that gołąbki literally means “little pigeons”. I suppose the reason for this is the cabbage roll must look somewhat like a little pigeon, though I’ve never seen a little pigeon … and the idea of eating one is incredibly unappealing to me! If this meal truly consisted of pigeon meat, it most definitely would not be one of my favorites!
However, since we’re now on this topic … did you know pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet? The pigeon is able to recognize its reflection in a mirror and is one of only 6 species, and the only non-mammal, that has this ability. The pigeon can also recognize all 26 letters of the English language and is able to conceptualize, differentiating between photographs and even between different human beings in a photograph.
And, as you probably know, pigeons have often been used throughout history as messengers for delivering communications of great importance. The earliest, large-scale, communication network, using pigeons as messengers, was established in Syria and Persia around the 5th century BC. Much later, in the 12th century AD, the city of Baghdad and all the main towns and cities in Syria and Egypt were linked by messages carried by pigeons, their sole source of communication. Further, their successful use as messengers in wartime resulted in many pigeons being awarded honors by both the British and French Governments.
But did you know a team of Navy researchers recently discovered pigeons can be trained to save human lives at sea with high success rates? Project Sea Hunt has trained a number of pigeons to identify red or yellow life jackets when floating in the water. The pigeons are not only more reliable than humans, but also many times quicker when it comes to spotting survivors from a capsized or sinking boat. The pigeon can see color in the same way that humans do, but they can also see ultra-violet, a part of the spectrum that humans cannot see, and this is one of the reasons they are so well adapted to lifesaving.
Finally, and most importantly, did you know pigeons are mentioned in the bible as one of the offerings required by God to be presented by Abram before the Lord (Genesis 15:9), that pigeons continued to be included among the sin-offerings in Leviticus 1:14; 12:6, and that the Old Testament law permitted those who could not afford to offer a lamb, to instead offer two young pigeons (Levitius 5:7; Luke 2:24)?
“Anyone who cannot afford a lamb is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the Lord as a penalty for their sin“. So indulgent, kind, and merciful was God to every man, if unable to afford and purchase the better offering, the best he could get would be acceptable; so the poor man had as many offerings for his atonement and cleansing as the rich, and his reparation and forgiveness were as complete as theirs.
What an interesting correlation! In the Old Testament, God required the pigeon as a sin offering for impoverished man: a highly intelligent bird able to differentiate between human beings, the sole source of communication used to deliver a message of great importance, and one able to see and save drowning human beings from their sinking ships.
Doesn’t this sound very much like an Old Testament shadow of the One who was to come? The Only Wise One carrying a message of absolute Truth, the Savior, the Deliverer, and the final Sin Offering for an impoverished man … who even today sees us and is able to save us from drowning in our sins!
Who is this One? His name is JESUS! Hallelujah!