Stuffed Cabbages

Next up is stuffed cabbages from Ouverture de Cuisine!

I initially went searching for this recipe when this year’s Scarlet Apron Cooking Challenge theme was announced — modern family dinners presented in a medieval fashion. The first thing that came to mind was a traditional Polish dinner: stuffed cabbage rolls, noodles or rice, and mushrooms of some sort. My research lead me to Ouverture de Cuisine and The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, but I was struck with inspiration while reading. While Scappi’s cookbook did indeed have cabbage rolls, why in the world should I stop there when both cookbooks had recipes for whole stuffed cabbages?

To make a stuffed cabbage.

Take a red cabbage that is not too large, & put it to boil whole sweetly, & leave it so a long time that you can open the leaves the one behind the other, while the leaves of the cabbage are large like a fist, cut that out, & put chopped meat therein that it will be arrayed like the other meats with eggs & spices, & then layer the cabbage with the leaves all around, that it will be well bound, & put it to cook, sausages with, or that which you want.

Though Scappi is specific about boiling his stuffed cabbages in meat broth or water, de Casteau is more vague. I took the opportunity to boil it as I prefer: in beef broth, red wine, apple cider vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. For the first boil, I let it go for about 20-30min at a full boil while I prepared a meat mixture of ground beef, garlic, and onions with sage, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, bound after cooling with egg. This meat mixture is the base of my meatballs, and I figured would be suitable for a trial run of this cabbage.

And then the fun began..

Peeling the outer layers was tricky at first, but the closer I got to the core, the cooler the cabbage became, and I was very surprised that it was still cold at the center. I carefully cut the heart of the cabbage out, then replaced it with a large handful of ground beef mixture.

After folding the first layer of leaves back over it, I put in another layer of meat, folded the next layer on, and put in the last layer of beef before folding the rest of the leaves back. I wrapped the whole cabbage in twine, then set it back to boiling for another 20-30 min in the wine and vinegar that I’d refreshed with a bit more of all ingredients.

The result was beautiful and tasty. It was a bit of a pain to cut and serve, so perhaps decorative pennants on skewers may be part of the serving plan next time.

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