Photo ©Laura Evonne Steinman
Sukkot celebrates the autumn harvest; a similarity to the Thanksgiving holiday observed in the United States which is not coincidental. Prior to making their way to the New World, the Pilgrims, themselves the victims of religious persecution, spent several years among Sephardic Jews in Holland. When they later celebrated the legendary first Thanksgiving, their conscious frame of reference was Sukkot.
Any dish incorporating the harvest of one’s own region is appropriate for Sukkot, but particularly those which feature a number of ingredients within, like stuffed vegetables, fruits, and main-dish pies – miniature cornucopia symbolizing the plenty with which we have been blessed and for which we hope throughout the coming new year. This concept is seen in the Ashkenazic tradition of serving kreplach or stuffed cabbage during this holiday and the Sephardic tradition of serving couscous, with its accompanying variety of vegetables and toppings. In cooler climates, baked casseroles or hearty one-pot meals are especially favored, since it is convenient to ferry them to the sukkah, in which as many meals as possible are eaten during the eight-day holiday (one week in Israel). According to the Talmud, the table should be decorated with pomegranates, themselves a symbol of plenty, and flasks of wine.
If preparing stuffed cabbage seems too time consuming or daunting, it’s possible to enjoy the flavors without the fuss by layering the ingredients, per the following recipe. [Thanks to Peggy Sherren, who permitted our mutual friend Karen Selwyn to share this. Note that this can be made vegetarian/pareve by substituting favorite sautéed vegetables for the meat. ]
Peggy's "Stuffed" Cabbage
2 lbs. ground beef
1 head cabbage, cored and leaves separated
2-3 onions, sliced thinly
2-3 slices bread
1 onion, grated or finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves crushed garlic
3 (8-ounce) cans plain tomato sauce
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
3-4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
2-3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup golden raisins
Pour enough warm water over bread to moisten. When moist, crumble bread and combine with garlic, minced onion, salt and pepper, and meat. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine tomato sauce, applesauce, cider vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, brown sugar and raisins. Set aside.
Lay layer of cabbage leaves on the bottom of a Dutch oven.
Layer some sliced onions over top the cabbage leaves. Place some of the mixed sauce over onions. Place some of the meat over top the sauce. Spread some sauce over the meat layer.
Repeat cabbage, onion, meat layers, interspersing sauce between layers. End layering procedure with cabbage and sauce.
Bake at 325 F for 3 hours.
Don't worry about the appearance of the cabbage leaves as you remove them from the head of cabbage. You're not rolling stuffing so you don't need whole, beautiful leaves.
Adjust the sauce ingredients to taste depending on your preference for piquant or sweet tasting stuffed cabbage.
When you serve a portion, make certain you dig down deep to get all the layers of the recipe.