My grandmother Jane loves to cook and make meals from her childhood. So when I asked her if she had any family recipes she would like to share, she was excited to tell me about one her mother always made for her: sweet and sour meat roll and cabbage.
To her, this meal is more than just a tasty food she remembers eating growing up — it is also a way to connect to our family’s Jewish heritage. “I love making it because it’s been done for centuries among the Jewish people,” my grandmother told me, “and it is a way of preserving Jewish traditions and the connection to our Judaism.”
The dish dates back hundreds of years to when Jewish people lived in small towns called shtetls in Eastern Europe. Many did not make much money, so sweet and sour meat roll and cabbage was cost-effective for families.
“When I make the dish I feel like my mom’s with me,” my grandmother said. “I can just remember the wonderful fragrance of the dish cooking on a cold winter day.” I love how her mother hand-wrote all of the recipes, adding “Delish!” at the bottom.
Below is the recipe for sweet and sour meat roll and cabbage.
- 2 lb ground beef (I use ground round)
- One head cabbage
- Two cans tomato bisque
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup vinegar
- One medium onion
- Flour (quick mixing flour)
- Salt and pepper (a touch of each)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the head of the cabbage in a bowl with a bit of water and steam in the microwave for a few minutes until tender enough to cut out the core (and avoid hurting yourself!).
- After the core is removed, remove leaves, rinse thoroughly and set aside on paper towels to drain.
- Sauce: mix 1 cup sugar and 1 cup vinegar. Taste to ensure the dish is well balanced — not too sweet or sour.
- Pour 1 1/2 cans bisque tomato soup (uncooked) into a bowl. Add sugar/vinegar mixture to tomato soup. Stir until thoroughly mixed and taste to see if the sweet/sour flavor is balanced. Add a tiny bit of water if thick, and stir until mixed.
- Roll ground meat into medium balls one at a time.
- Place a cabbage leaf and sit the ball on top. Roll cabbage leaf around each meatball and lay it with seam on the bottom (place in deep roasting pan).
- Put 1/4 cup sweet and sour sauce into a bowl. Add 1 tbsp quick-mixing flour to the liquid. Stir thoroughly.
- Now that cabbage-wrapped meatballs are in a pot, pour sweet/sour sauce without flour over rolled meatballs.
- Heat sauce with flour in a pan over medium-low heat while continually stirring until it thickens. It should not be too thick. Add a bit of water if it seems too thick.
- Pour sauce and flour into the pan, and spoon over cabbage rolls.
- Sprinkle diced onion overtop.
- Peel and cut into quarters four large potatoes, and place in sauce.
- Put the lid on the pan and place it on the middle rack.
- Cook at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Note that this dish freezes well. Enjoy!!