Unstuffed Sukkah

Sukkah Lights in the City of David

Some people are amazed at the lengths (and depths) I will go to in the kitchen to put a meal on the table, or tempt you with something sweet to have with your coffee.  Yes, we do have home-baked challah every Shabbat (the last time store-bought challot graced our Shabbat table was… um… I can’t remember… 2003?).  Yes, I will patchkeh around with the pastry bag and make a legion of profiteroles.  Yes, I will concoct my own liqueurs potent enough to knock you out after a tiny shnapps glassful.  Yes, I have been known to make my own jams, youghurt, chutneys, even marzipan.  But I draw the line somewhere.  I’m not a fan of rolling out pastry dough (I’ll do it, but grumble throughout).  Unless you count krepach (Jewish wontons), I’ve never made my own pasta.  And I hate, hate, HATE stuffing cabbage.  Back in the late 90s I came across a recipe for Unstuffed Cabbage and my life changed forever.  I made it every Sukkot, when it’s traditional to eat stuffed cabbage.  I made it all throughout the winter, and well into the summer.  It was yummy and easy and a hit.

Not Ju-boy's stuffed cabbage, but an exact replica

Then I married Ju-Boy.  He thinks Unstuffed Cabbage is an abomination.  He had it once at my house while we were dating, and decided to quote Rabbi Meir Kahane and say “Never again!”  He makes his own stuffed cabbage and that is the only kind allowed in his sukkah.  Why do we eat stuffed cabbage on Sukkot in the first place.  I Googled and Googled, but it seems I’m handier in the kitchen then on Google, since all I could find was a bunch of websites explaining that one eats stuffed foods on Sukkot, but not why.   And then I came upon Interesting Thing of the Day.  It took a non-Jew to give me an explanation I can identify with:

Although there are no explicit rules as to what foods must be eaten during Sukkot, stuffed foods are extremely common. These may include stuffed peppers, eggplants, or cabbage, stuffed fruits and pastries, knishes, kreplach, main-dish pies, or even ravioli. Though no one knows for sure, there are several theories as to how the metaphor of stuffing came to be associated with Sukkot. Some commentators liken the stuffed foods to miniature cornucopia, representing a bountiful harvest. The cornucopia originated in Greek mythology, so the terminology is not historically accurate, but the symbolism may nevertheless be correct. In terms of the harvest that Sukkot celebrates, produce such as peppers and eggplant will have been gathered recently, and Mark suggested that stuffing them with the other late-summer vegetables may represent the completion of the harvest. Sukkot also includes the notion of welcoming guests (both living and historical heroes) into the sukkah, thus “stuffing” them into a wrapper of sorts.

I like this explanation a lot.  And it goes with my Jewish mother philosophy of life of stuffing people with food.

But for those of you who don’t agree with this philosophy, or don’t like patchkeying around in the kitchen, or just like a quick dish to put together for the holiday, I bring you…

Unstuffed Cabbage

  • 750 ml (3 cups)  ketchup
  • 1 liter (4 cups) ginger ale
  • 1 whole medium  cabbage, very coarsely shredded
  • 1 kilo (2 pounds)  ground beef
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs or matza meal
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • salt
  1. Put the ketchup and ginger ale into a large soup pot and bring to the boil.
  2. Add the cabbage and lower the heat so it simmers.
  3. In a large bowl mix the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Wet hands and form large balls, place gently into the simmering cabbage in the pot.
  5. Bring to the boil again, turn heat down, cover and let simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Serve with something to mop up the juices (like my challah, hint, hint).

Photo courtesy of Chia from Recipezaar

One of the advantages to living in a blended family is that we combined not only our families, kitchens, pets and furniture, we also combined our sukkot.  Ju-Boy puts together both frames not to create one giant sukka, but a two-roomed suite, complete with dining area and separate bedroom.  I’d like to show you a picture, but can’t.  We never photographed our sukka.  How remiss of us.  So instead, I’ve garnered a few funky pix of sukkot that might entertain.  A few are from my album on Facebook, Only in Israel, and when you see them, you’ll see why.  Enjoy…

Sukka on a yacht, courtesy of Doubletapper's blog

Gotta have your Whopper in the sukkah

Latte in the sukkah -- photo courtesy of Elie Lederman

Lulav? Check. Etrog? Check? Hadas and arava? Check? Automatic weapons? Of course!

Sukkot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn -- any piece of open sky will do...

And finally…

I wish our sukkah got built that quickly and efficiently!  And look at the size of the dining room table — I want one!

Wishing you all a Happy Sukkot!

!חג סוכות שמח

About Miriyummy

All I want to do is live happily ever after.

Posted on 22 September 2010, in Beef, Holiday cooking, Jewish cooking, Shabbat and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I agree with Ju-boy. No way can you have Sukkot without STUFFED cabbages.

    There’s a secret to making them. Use Savoy cabbage as the leaves are softer and so easier to fold. Before using the cabbage, put it in the freezer for 24 hours. That makes the leaves even easier to fold. All you need to do then is make the meat / rice / raison mix and put a dollop into each leaf. Fold up the leaf and put in a large casserole. Cook and then eat. Yummy!


  2. I may try your recipe. Sounds intriguing.


  3. Love it! Chag sameach from my unstuffed succah


  4. I always thought my mom made stuffed cabbage because it wad an easy one-pot meal for the sukkah. So in that case unstuffed would work as well.


  5. Susy’s recipe also calls for a tin of tomatoes and some wine so that it all cooks together.


  6. My six year old daughter as well as my self really enjoyed the different pic’s you posted of Sukkah. Thanks so much as usual for a most enjoyed glimpse of your life in the homeland. Also, I am going to try the unstuffed cabbage for a switch. My mother always made stuffed also. Wishing you and your family a very happy Sukkot also.


  7. Irmgard Upmanis

    My mom also used Savoy cabbage to make stuffed cabbage. I find it easier to digest. 😉


  8. In all fairness to the man who called your unstuffed cabbage an abomination, don’t you think you should include his stuffed cabbage recipe as well? They both are making me hungry.
    Chag Sameach


  9. omg the recipe! the meaning! the 2 room sweet! the “only in israel” shots! you make me happy. all the freakin time. for the record, stuffed cabbage is a fave of mine but i rarely make it b/c of the process! i’m so trying your way and soon- it’s cold and ready for comfort food in these parts!


  10. I have never heard of the stuffed foods minhag before! After all of these years…. I clearly am not picking up on the important stuff as a BT all these years. : )

    I rolled sushi – does that count as “stuffed” food? (we’re so traditional.)

    I love the photos of the City of David and the yacht. Where did you get them?


  11. I didn’t know about these minhagim either, and I’m supposed to be FFB. And sushi *so* counts as stuffed food. Next time, invite me! As for the photos, there’s a blog called Doubletapper that has the best shots.


  12. Your recipes sound delicious. For the unstuffed cabbage one, do you use cooked rice or uncooked? Thanks, can’t wait to try it!


  13. In Hungary – where stuffed cabbege is from – its eaten on Simchat torah, since its rolled up as the Torah


  14. Sorry to come to this late — found during random internet searching as I put up the roof slats for our sukkah this year. Nice recipes!But the explanation I’ve heard for stuffed cabbage on Sukkot comes from the verses at the end of the hoshanot of Hoshanah Rabbah — “Kol Mevaser” — which sounds like “Kohl mit Wasser”


  15. Good blog posts never die… Just like a good recipe. I’m Native American and only recently discovered that my American g-grandmother (on my “white” side) accidentally told my mother about being Jewish. Wow. From one persecuted people to another! That’s okay; I’m good with it. So, Sukkot… Stuffed foods… How are they connected??? I’m guessing, here: Sukkot has to do with HaShem/Creator tabernacling with us… being with us… stuffing us with Ruach HaKodesh… Kinda like taking wonderful beautiful things and putting them into a shell… a cabbage, a ravioli, a seaweed wrap, a bell pepper, and who-knows-what-else. Ah-ho (“Indian” for “amen, I’m done.”)


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