I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately – pretty non-adventurous about making anything new for the most part, more content to make comfort food that reminds me of places I’ve long since left behind and people that have long since left me behind when passing out of this world.
For some reason, much of this need for comfort has manifested itself in trying to recreate dishes my Oma (grandmother) used to make me as a child. Unfortunately, many of her recipes died with her in 1995, and because she always put her own little spin on things (my Oma was the ultimate foodie!), recipes I find online are pretty much useless. For instance, her roladen was stuffed with meat and wrapped in bacon, rather than stuffed with pickles and mustard like most traditional recipes.
She pretty much had her own “meat mix” going, her ground beef mixture that worked wonderfully in everything from frikadellen to rouladen to layered cabbage and beef and everything in between. It was the key to most of her recipes, and the one thing that I have been able to perfect, from sensory recall alone. When I hit upon just the right combination of flavors, I knew it immediately.
This is one of her specialties, one that the whole family loves, from my mother to my sisisters to my husband and everyone in between. My mom translated what she could of the recipe, but I’ve added my own touches to it, which I’ll mention after the recipe details. While my mom’s version is good – the changes I made improve it, I think. But I’ll let you decide for yourself.
Oma’s Layered Ground Beef & Cabbage
1 tbsp. shortening
1 large head cabbage
2 lbs. ground beef
1 c. bread crumbs
Boil cabbage in a pot of water and pull off leaves as cabbage softens. Save the liquid from the cabbage. Mix meat with bread crumbs, egg, Maggi, salt and pepper. Melt a pat of shortening at bottom of Dutch oven. Layer leaves along bottom of pan, then sprinkle caraway seeds. Layer meat, then cabbage again until you have 3 layers of cabbage, and 2 layers of meat. Dot with butter between layers. Add enough liquid down sides to keep it moist. Cook in covered Dutch oven on medium heat for at least an hour, or until meat is no longer pink and cabbage is tender. Serve with potatoes.
Now, here is what I do differently:
I do use ground beef, but about 3 lbs. instead of 2 lbs. I use 2 heads of cabbage instead of 1, and I peel the tough outer leaves, then thinly slice all the inner leaves until it’s shredded. After I’ve drained the parboiled cabbage shreds, I also parboil the outer leaves. For the meat mixture, I use 1 egg, about a tablespoon of Maggi (at least, more to taste), 2 tsp. of salt, and about 3/4 tsp. of pepper. Instead of breadcrumbs, I use 6 day old kaiser rolls (preferably caraway rolls) soaked in milk until soft. I use my Le Creuset 5-quart dutch oven, and line the bottom with the outer leaves before doing the layers. I do use the butter liberally, and definitely sprinkle caraway seeds. I use the remaining outer leaves to put on the top, don’t use the cabbage juice at all, and instead of cooking it on the stovetop, I cook it in the covered dutch oven in the oven at 350 for 90 minutes.
If you do try it both ways, be sure to drop me a comment and tell me which version you prefer!