There is something funny about this dish. I’m not quite sure what it is but many call this unstuffed cabbage. I’m presuming it is because they know what stuffed cabbage is and this isn’t stuffed cabbage. But I have a hard time thinking of this as unstuffed cabbage, when it is really just cabbage and meatballs. Let’s call this what it is! This sweet and sour cabbage can be made soupier if you want to slurp with a spoon or it can be cooked down and eaten as a main course. Of course it can also be a side dish, if you don’t want meatballs in it. I vote for meatballs.
My mother first made this dish and served it to my kids, when they were wee little tykes. I do not remember this dish from my childhood. But even if she had made it, I doubt I would have eaten it. Except maybe the meatballs. Who doesn’t eat meatballs? I don’t know about you but I don’t know too many tykes that have a thing for cabbage. However I do know many that have a thing for meatballs. I was never one to like cabbage rolls or stuffed cabbage, (whatever you prefer to call it) and I don’t like stuffed grape leaves either. But I am a lover of cabbage. I love various cabbage salads and I love cabbage in Japanese stir fry.
This dish popped into my head as something to bring to a friend of mine’s mother. My friend was out of town and I felt like her mom could use some company. Being me, meant that I couldn’t go empty handed, so I brought this cabbage and a giant loaf of artisan bread from one of my favorite bread bakeries. Holishkes or stuffed cabbage is a popular Polish dish and my friend’s mom is Polish. Manservant was out of town and I knew this dish wasn’t something he would relish, so it was my time to make it and enjoy it without him picking around the cabbage for the meatballs!
This recipe makes a lot, but it can also be frozen. The sweet comes from brown sugar and honey and the sour from lemon juice, though I have seen vinegar used in this. Feel free to adjust the sweet and sour to your liking. This is a hearty dish and one to be enjoyed at the kitchen table. Now that I’m stuck in the midst of a cold, I am glad I saved some to enjoy also. It is quite comforting in between blowing my nose!
Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Meatballs
Time to Make: About 20 minutes active and 2.5 hours to simmer
1 large diced onion
2 lbs green cabbage, chopped
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 28 oz can tomatoes with juice
1 c water or more depending on how soupy you want this
1/4 c honey
1/4 c lemon juice
1/3 c brown sugar
1 t Hungarian paprika
1/4 c raisins optional and added after 2 hours of cooking
1 lb ground beef or turkey
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t salt or to taste
1/2 c grated onion
1/2 c uncooked white rice
Combine all soup ingredients, except raisins in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. While mixture is coming to a boil, mix the meatball ingredients together. Shape into walnut sized balls and drop into boiling soup. Reduce heat, cover ad simmer for two hours. Remove cover and add raisins if desired. Continue cooking for 30 more minutes. This is where you may want to add more water if you like this the consistency of soup. I serve this dish with lots of freshly ground black pepper.