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Stuff that in your Crock Pot and Cook it!

May 29, 2009

There will be a recipe today, for an amazing Crock Pot Stuffed Cabbage in Sweet and Sour Tomato Sauce, but first you’re going to have to listen to an old family story.

My much beloved, dearly missed Mother was a great cook. She didn’t seem to derive much joy from the process of cooking, but she loved for people to eat her work. She cooked a little bit of everything, but never stuffed cabbage. Nev-er.

Whenever she’d ask my Father what he wanted her to make, he’d say “I don’t care. Anything.” Except every once in a while he’d ask “Why don’t you ever make that delicious stuffed cabbage you made when we were first married?”

At this point, my Mother would look at him as if he was insane, roll her eyes, and insist that it must have been some other wife (there was none) who made him stuffed cabbage, because it wasn’t her.

My Father would just say “Well, I remember eating stuffed cabbage and it was delicious. You should make that.”

And the “What do you want for dinner” discussion would start all over again…

This is a long, roundabout way of saying I’ve never really eaten stuffed cabbage, except for a taste of someone else’s, and I’ve certainly never cooked it. But I did now, because it seemed like a good idea.

Mr. Alfa agreed. After the first bite, when I asked him if it tasted good, he said “It tastes like more.” Fortunately, this recipe made close to two dozen cabbage rolls, so there was “more.”

Crock Pot Stuffed Cabbage in Sweet-and-Sour Tomato Sauce

1 medium head of green cabbage

1 lb. extra lean ground beef

1 lb. lean ground pork

1 onion, minced or grated

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup parboiled rice –either white or brown (Uncle Ben’s or a sack of boil-in-bag rice)

2 tsps cinnamon, divided

2 tsps nutmeg, divided

1 tsp allspice, divided

1 tsp oregano

Salt & pepper to taste

1 14/5 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

1 small can of tomato paste

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark)


  1. Prep the cabbage. To do this, bring a large pot of water to boil. Remove the core from the cabbage, and drop it in the pot. As the outer leaves turn dark green, remove them. Keep removing leaves as they soften. The goal is to cook the cabbage as little as possible, while softening the leaves enough to remove them and make them suitable for rolling. You’ll need to cut some of these leaves along the stem end of the cabbage to get them loose. Keep at it.
  2. While the cabbage is softening up, mix up the filling. In a large bowl, combine the ground meats (you can use just one type, or even ground turkey. Makes no difference to me), the rice, the beaten egg, the onion, and half of the spices — except the oregano. Do not put oregano in the meat, or your crock pot will explode. Or not 🙂
  3. Assuming you’re done prying loose the cabbages leaves, let them drain and cool so you can handle them. Meanwhile, mix up the sauce. In a medium bowl, mix the tomato products, the vinegar, the brown sugar, the rest of the spices, even the oregano. Set aside.
  4. You know those pieces of cabbage that tore when you were separating them? Put them in the bottom of the crock pot. They’ll help keep things moist, and you can even eat them.
  5. At the bottom of each cabbage leaf there’s a thick stem. Cut a v-shaped notch to remove it, otherwise you’ll never be able to roll that leaf up.
  6. It’s time to start stuffing. If you have any experience rolling stuff inside other, more flexible stuff, this part is going to be a snap. If you don’t have that experience, well, you wasted your youth.
  7. Take a cabbage leaf and lay it on a flat surface. Overlap the spot where you cut the v-notch. Add a couple of tablespoons of the stuffing mix at the bottom of the leaf–how much depends on the size of your leaf. Roll the bottom of the leaf over the stuffing one turn, then fold the sides of the leaf in to cover the filling. Keep rolling until you have a nice tight little cylinder — kind of like a meaty cigar or something.
  8. Place each roll seam-side down in the crock. Fill the entire bottom, packing them in closely.
  9. Top this layer with half the sauce mixture. Then, create another layer of cabbage rolls.
  10. Top the second layer with the rest of the sauce mixture. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.
12 Comments leave one →
  1. Angela permalink
    June 7, 2009 10:15 am

    Does anyone know about putting a head of cabbage in the freezer and then removing the leaves? I’ve heard they come right off, but I’ve never tried it and resort to the boiling methord.

    Recipe looks very good. I loved stuffed cabbage and this even looks pretty healthy.

    • alfagee permalink*
      June 7, 2009 10:37 am

      Sorry. I’ve never even heard of that method.

      The boiling water thing really was pretty easy, though. And since you can use the time the cabbage is softening up to mix the filling, it’s not really a time waster.

  2. E11even permalink
    June 15, 2009 3:24 pm

    I was surprised how easy it was to wrangle the leaves – I was worried it would be hard. I found it oddly therapeutic, but I’m an odd duck to say the least.

    It’s in the crock now, and smells awesome.

    • alfagee permalink*
      June 15, 2009 3:26 pm

      You’re not the only one who found it therapeutic 🙂

      I’ve got a whole container of these in the freezer; I’m giving them to my Dad for Father’s Day.

  3. E11even permalink
    June 15, 2009 4:49 pm

    nice! did you make them, cook them and then freeze? or just freeze them for later cooking?

    • alfagee permalink*
      June 15, 2009 4:51 pm

      I cooked then froze. My Dad’s cooking skills are limited to the microwave and boiling water.

      • E11even permalink
        June 15, 2009 5:53 pm

        my dad can actually cook. oddly. not my mom.

      • alfagee permalink*
        June 15, 2009 9:03 pm

        My Dad never had to learn to cook until my Mom died. He was 70, so the fact that he feeds himself every day is pretty good.

  4. E11even permalink
    June 16, 2009 2:44 pm

    my one word review: mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

    Mr. E’s longer review: I’m not in love with the cabbage, but I’m in love with the filling, what can you put it in instead?

    So apparently this will be my new recipe for stuffed peppers, except I don’t like peppers in the crock, so I’ll have to bake.

    • alfagee permalink*
      June 16, 2009 2:46 pm

      Tell Mr. E11even I said he’s lucky he’s cute.

      You can turn the filling into meatballs (what my Mom always called Porcupine balls) and simmer in the same sauce in the crock pot.

      • E11even permalink
        June 16, 2009 3:50 pm

        awesome. he’d probably love that over like egg noodles or something.

  5. Stella permalink
    July 28, 2009 1:47 pm

    Freezing the head of cabbage until it is solid, then thaw for a day or two in the frig. Doing this make the cabbage so easy to work with and it comes of the head perfect for rolling the cabbage. I have done this many of tims and it is perfect everytime. And you do not get burnt on hot water or hot cabbage.

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