Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Ring in 2011 with a tasty twist on a time-honored tradition: New Year’s stuffed cabbage rolls with ground pork.

What’s the difference between superstition and tradition? And why do so many have to do with food?

Every year, I hear of more ways to ensure a healthy, happy, wealthy New Year based on the menu for January. In one tradition or another, it is considered lucky to eat pork, cod, lentils, beans (of all kinds), grapes (make sure you eat at least 12), kale, collards, cabbage, cakes and doughnuts. Just stay away from lobster and chicken, as both are associated with backward motion (which means no progress for the New Year).

lucky oatmeal cookies
Recipe for Lucky Oatmeal Cookies.

Like so many seasonal traditions, these often are dishes we make once a year. I used to bemoan the fact that my family only had strufoli (little fried-dough balls soaked in honey) at Christmastime.

On the feast of Santa Lucia, we eat lupini beans because you aren’t supposed to consume anything made with wheat.
For the feast of St. Joseph, we gorge on cream puffs filled with sweetened ricotta cream. Again, I wonder why I don’t enjoy these treats any other time. The answer: It might detract from their magical qualities.

For New Year’s 2011, I’m adding a new food tradition: I’ve resurrected my mother’s recipe for stuffed cabbage. I plan to substitute ground pork for beef in the filling. That way, I can have my pork and cabbage for good luck and preserve a family tradition.


New Year’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

1 large head cabbage
1 can (28 ounces) tomato sauce
1 bottle Heinz chili sauce
2 pounds ground pork
1 cup uncooked rice
1 cup sauerkraut, drained
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cut out the core of the cabbage and parboil it in a large pot of water until the leaves are tender. Drain and cool. Then separate the leaves carefully. Mix the tomato and chili sauces together. Pour about one cup in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish.

Take some of the large outer leaves of the cabbage and cover the bottom of the casserole. Mix the ground pork with the rice, sauerkraut, apples, brown sugar and pepper. Lay out a cabbage leaf, and cut the thick stem area to make it easier to roll. Place a one-quarter cup of the pork mixture at the base of the leaf and roll up loosely, tucking in the sides as you go to create a neat bundle.

Place the roll in the casserole and continue with the remaining cabbage and filling. Pour the remaining sauce over the rolls and cover tightly. Bake at 350 degrees for two hours. Remove the cover and bake for another 30 minutes to concentrate the sauce. Makes about 16.