Stuffed Cabbage (aka Holishkes): Edible Torahs for Sukkot
Most Ashkenazi Jewish food traditions can be summed up with the sentence, "Our ancestors were poor, and this is what they could afford to eat." Even so, it's pretty incredible how creatively our forebears were able to construct themed dishes for the holidays that worked on a tight budget.
Stuffed cabbage -- known in the shtetl as holishkes -- are one such dish. They get paired with Sukkot in part because cabbage is in season now, and in part because two holishkes placed next to each other on a plate look a bit like Torah scrolls, and Sukkot culminates with Simchat Torah, our holiday celebrating the yearly cycle of reading our central text.
Previously on JewishBoston.com we've featured a vegetarian, Passover-friendly recipe for stuffed cabbage. For Sukkot, we offer a variation that's not quite traditional, in that it eschews rice and ground beef, but offers a poultry and whole-grain version as one might expect in 21st-century liberal Boston.
2 pounds ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped mushroom
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups of your favorite whole grain, prepared (e.g. bulgur, brown rice, or wheatberries)
2 eggs, beaten
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 6-ounce can tomato puree
1/3 cup brown sugar
Handful of raisins
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and Pepper
Boil a large pot of water. Put the entire cabbage into the boiling water. When the leaves are pliable and tender, remove the cabbage from the water. Remove the leaves and lay them out flat.
While cabbage is cooking, mix the turkey, mushroom, onion, garlic, grain, and eggs.
Depending on the size of the cabbage leaf, place up to 2 tablespoons of stuffing mixture onto each leaf and roll the sides of the leaf inward, toward the spine, tucking the sides into the roll if possible. If your cabbage leaves feel flimsy, consider double-layering leaves, aligning the spines.
In a medium-size pot, combine tomato sauce, tomato puree, brown sugar, raisins, and lemon juice.
Place the rolled stuffed cabbage into the sauce pot with the spines facing up. You may stack them into two layers. If so, you may add a little more tomato sauce and sprinkle a little more brown sugar on top.
Cover and cook on medium-low flame for up to two hours. Watch to ensure the sauce doesn't boil so you don't burn the bottom of the pot. To ensure the holishkes are cooked through, measure the turkey stuffing with a meat thermometer. If the stuffing measures at least 165 degrees, it is ready to eat.