A happy holubki birthday tribute

In honor of my dad’s joint birthday with my grandma, Mollyand I made holubki. There are as many different ways to prepare these Russian cabbage rolls as there are proper ways to spell them, but we stuck to the Kostelnik family recipe, which means we winged it just a little.
My Grandma cooked stubbornly and without measurement, and when you entered her warm little house on 20 Row, you ate. Period.
We once drove 12 hours through the night to visit my grandparents. She was nearing 80 at the time so I told her not to cook for us.”Shhh,” I said to my husband as we tiptoed into the house at 2 a.m.
“Hiya,” my grandma said brightly from the stiffbacked chair on which she had been crocheting and keeping vigil. “Sitdown. Eat.”
And we sat down to a full course meal of holubki, breaded veal, potato salad and apple cake. “Grandma, I thought you said you weren’t going to cook,” I said around a big mouthful of food.
“I didn’t cook. I just heated up,” she said.
As sweet as a crisp Polish dill, my grandma lived by strong principles based on family loyalty. Molly has fond memories of the time my Grandma pulled me through a grocery store in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania by my left ear lobe.
We just loved our trips to Pennsylvania and we use our own kitchen for occasional trips back in time. What follows is our recipe for holubki, with love for Grandma Jay.

1 head cabbage
1 1/2 pound ground chuck
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup rice (Not Minute Rice, Grandma was very specific about that)
2 cans Campbells Tomato Soup
 1) Call your Aunt Martha because she is the keeper of family history and she will help you through this. If you don’t have an Aunt Martha, we will try to walk you through this crazy Ukrainian dish anyway.
 2) Scald the cabbage. This means you have to boil it in hot water until the leaves pull off easily. Aunt Martha warned me that this would takea couple of scaldings and, sure enough, we had to douse that head three times.We boiled the cabbage for 15 minutes to start off.
 3) Meanwhile, prepare your rice. Conveniently, we cooked our rice for 15 minutes, which worked out perfectly for us as that was exactly how long we boiled the cabbage.
 4) Mix the rice with the raw hamburger and season it with salt and pepper.
5) Line your crock pot (here is the first time we went offscript. Grandma did not own a crock pot. We love ours though and our holubki cooked all night and was tender and delicious the next day). Anyway, line the bottom of your crock pot with cabbage leaves.
 6) Peel off cabbage leaves. Place about a tablespoon of the meat mixture in the center of the cabbage leaf and roll the leaf up. Per AuntMartha, which worked out splendidly, roll up the bottom first, fold in the sides and then roll the rest of the way.
7) Place cabbage roll in the crock pot.
 8) Continue creating the cabbage rolls until your crock pot is full. You can layer the rolls on top of each other.
9) Spoon tomato soup on top of the cabbage rolls and cover with extra cabbage leaves.
10) Cook on high until tomato soup boils, and then turn tolow.  We cooked ours all night.
This is my Grandma and me cooking in her Pennsylvania kitchen.
Core the cabbage before you scald it.
You can let it cool before you peel off the leaves. We had to
scald it again as we got closer to the center.
Meanwhile, add your cooked rice to your raw hamburger and season.
Place the meat mixture in the cabbage leaf and roll tightly.
Add tomato soup to the top of the cabbage rolls.
Cover with extra cabbage leaves add the crock pot top.


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