When A Cabbage Roll Is Not A Cabbage Roll

I was inspired to offer this Native American version of a cabbage roll after reading trkingmomoe’s recipe post here at Once Upon A Paradigm.

Technically, this isn’t a cabbage roll recipe. It is actually a grape leaf roll recipe with a Native American twist. Using a grape leaf as a food wrapper is also used for Greek dolmades. (A good recipe for the Greek dish and helpful photos on how to stuff a grape leaf can be found here.)
The Greek version uses domesticated grape leaves; even using ones from a jar! Who knew one could buy grape leaves in a jar? Not I!

Anyhoo. The Native American version calls for using wild grape leaves. Now, I realize not everyone has access to wild grape leaves, so it’s convenient that tame ones work just as well. Just make sure they haven’t been sprayed with garden chemicals. No tame ones either? Burdock leaves work just dandy. No burdock? Well, I reckon cabbage leaves will do in a pinch although that substitution will definitely take you out of the running for producing real Native American cuisine. So, this could be a cabbage roll recipe after all.

Basic meat and rice filling:

About a pound of ground venison
About two cups of cooked and cooled wild rice
About ½ cup thin sliced wild onions
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix well.

Ground venison is very low fat. It can also have a slight gamey taste to it that some people do not enjoy. Using half venison and half ground pork or beef helps with the dryness and flavor if you are not all that keen on eating deer meat. Some cooks even substitute half of the venison with pork sausage. The best meat filling I ever had? Elk.

Wild rice takes a good forty minutes or so to cook. It can be a little pricey, but that is for the perfect long grain type. The less expensive broken wild rice works just fine for this recipe because it is hidden inside the rolls. The broken rice also cooks faster. Here is how to cook wild rice properly.

Wild onions are wild onions. If wild onions are not practical for you, then green or spring onions from the grocery store are an acceptable replacement.

Prepare the fresh, wild grape leaves by cutting off the stem and blanching each leaf in boiling water for about 10 seconds or until they become pliable. How many leaves you will need depends on their size – it could be as many as a hundred!

Place 1-2 teaspoons of meat and rice filling on each leaf (shiny side down) using momoe’s photos from her blog or the photos from here as a guide.

Line the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven with leftover grape leaves. Place rolls seam side down. Don’t pack them in, but do place them in layers. Put a layer of grape leaves on top. Pour 2 or 3 cups of meat or vegetable broth over the rolls and bring to a boil over high heat. Let it boil for a couple of minutes, cover with lid, then turn the heat down to simmer. Let simmer for about 40 minutes, adding more broth if needed.

This dish is actually tastier when served at room temperature. Refrigerated leftovers are good cold! Because of the dryness of the lean venison, a dipping sauce might be appreciated, making this an unusual party appetizer you can make a few days in advance. Ranch dressing maybe, or perhaps something lemony.

And this is when a cabbage roll is not a cabbage roll!

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