Slow Cooker Stuffed Cabbage (Golubtsi)

1 large head of cabbage

2-3 carrots, grated

1/2 cup caramelized onions, finely chopped (optional)

butter or olive oil for cooking

1 lb. ground beef (or other ground meat of your choice)

1/2 cup cooked rice

1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes


salt and pepper

1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Tip: Put the whole head of cabbage into the empty pot and fill the pot with water to just above the cabbage. Then, remove the cabbage and bring the water to a boil. Why? You don't really want to overfill the pot and have boiling water displaced onto your stove-top once you lower the cabbage in. :)

2. Wash the cabbage and turn it upside down so that the core is facing you. Using a long, sharp knife, cut a channel all the way around the core. If you can succeed in cutting the core out completely, that will be great, but if you can't get it out, don't worry. Scoring should do the trick provided you cut deeply into the cabbage and cut all the way around to create a channel between the core and the leaves. Some recipes tell you to pull the leaves off a fresh cabbage before boiling them but I've never had success with this method because cabbage leaves are tightly packed and they will break if you try to do this.

3. Carefully lower the cabbage head into the boiling water core side down and let it boil for 10 minutes. Hold it down with something heavy if need be (because it will try to float). Once the leaves start to cook a bit, turn off the heat and pull the cabbage head out of the water. Don't drain the boiling water yet just in case the cabbage doesn't cook all the way through.

4. When cool enough to handle, peel the leaves off and let them cool further. If the interior leaves don't seem as cooked as the exterior leaves, feel free to pop the cabbage back into the pot for another few minutes of boiling. The purpose of the boiling is to loosen the leaves so that you can work with them and not to cook the cabbage completely.  Depending on the size of the cabbage, you ought to end up with about 12-15 large leaves. Reserve the smallest leaves for a later step.

5. While the leaves are cooling, heat a pan and add a little butter or olive oil. Sauté the grated carrots until golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

6. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, rice, half the carrots, the onions (if using), salt and pepper to taste, and 3-4 tablespoons of ketchup.

7. Take a cabbage leaf and lay it out flat with the stem end facing away from you.  If the stem is too hard, you can cut it out to make rolling easier. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture at one end of the leaf and roll it up like you would a burrito. Continue making cabbage rolls in this way.

8. In a slow cooker (or a large pot), lay some of the reserved cabbage leaves on the bottom to prevent burning. Place cabbage rolls on top of these leaves. Spread half of the remaining carrot mixture on top of the rolls and add half a can of the crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add a second layer of cabbage rolls on top and again spread the remaining carrots and crushed tomatoes on top. Season well again. Add additional water mixed with more ketchup (several tablespoons) to make enough sauce to cover the rolls.

9. If using your slow cooker, cook on low for 4 hours. If using a regular pot, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about half an hour. Uncover, turn up the heat, and let the sauce boil away until somewhat reduced, about 5-15 minutes. The leaves should be tender and the meat should be cooked through.

Recipe by Julie @