God bless Barbara Walters! For a great deal of the population, the 83-year-old news veteran has simply always been there, like our favorite sad song or a beloved shrub. Having announced her imminent retirement yesterday, Barbara will soon have plenty of time to focus on other interests—like cooking. Should she venture into the kitchen, her thoughts may very well drift back to her mother’s stuffed cabbage recipe. She clearly loves this recipe as I’ve found it in two cook books that were published 25 years apart, which either means that the stuffed cabbage was, indeed, a very special dish in the Walters household, or that Barbara was simply too busy to be bothered changing her response when asked for a recipe.
In either case, I’m sure you join me in wishing Ms. Walters only good things as she retires from public life. I only hope that between bites of her mother’s stuffed cabbage someone has the temerity to ask the eternally intimidating journalist what kind of tree she’s been all these years!
I must warn you that as written, Barbara’s mother’s cabbage recipe has a rather imposing yield—28 rolls to serve 14! I’m not sure whether Barbara had a very large family, whether Barbara’s mother was the kind of gal that fed the neighborhood, or whether she would freeze some, but serving 14 seems a little intense. If you’re good at math you can make the desired adjustments. If you’re like me and that would be way to complicated, you can ask a friend or loved one to help you with the figures.
Barbara Walters’ Mother’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
2 heads (2 pounds each) green cabbage
6 quarts boiling water
3 pounds lean ground chuck
Salt to taste
3/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons celery salt, or to taste
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup crushed, unsalted crackers
3 cups chopped onion
1 12-ounce bottles (2 cups each) chili sauce
1 12-ounce jar (1 cup) grape jelly
1/4 cup water
1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease one 11 1/2 x 12 x 2 1/4-inch roasting pan or two 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pans.
2. Cut out and discard hard center core of cabbage. Place cabbage in large kettle. Pour 6 quarts boiling water over it. Let stand until leaves are flexible and can easily be removed from head, about 5 mintues. Remove from hot water and separate and drain leaves. If necessary, return cabbage to hot water to soften inner leaves. Repeat with second cabbage.
3. In large bowl combine meat, salt, pepper, celery salt, ketchup, eggs, and crackers. Mix with hands just until mixture is well combined.
4. Using a 1/4-cup measure, scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of the meat mixture. With hands, form into rolls 3 inches long and 1 inch wide, making about 28 rolls in all. Place each meat roll on a drained cabbage leaf. Fold top of leaf over meat, then fold in sides and roll on a drained cabbage leaf. Fold top of leaf over meat, then fold in sides and roll into an oblong. Continue rolling remaining meat rolls and cabbage leaves.
5. Spread chopped onion evenly in bottom of pan(s). Arrange cabbage rolls in neat rows on top of onion.
6. For Sauce: In a 2-quart saucepan, combine chili sauce, grape jelly, and 1/4 cup water. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until jelly melts. Pour over cabbage rolls. Cover pan tightly with foil.
7. Bake for 2 hours. Remove foil. Brush rolls with sauce. Continue to bake, uncovered, 20 to 40 minutes or until sauce is thick and syrupy and cabbage rolls are glazed. Spoon sauce over rolls and serve.
Makes 28 cabbage rolls to serve 14 (!)