Hollipshes for Sukkot

by Margi Lenga Kahn, Special to the Jewish Light

While it is customary to serve any stuffed vegetable on Sukkot, no dish is more traditional among Jews the world over than stuffed cabbage rolls. These compact packages, with their tasty fillings and rich sauces, symbolize the abundance of the fall harvest and the promise of plenty in the New Year. Whether you prepare the rolls in a savory sauce, as do Hungarian and Italian Jews, or in a tart sauce, like many Sephardim, or in a sweet and sour sauce, as do the Jews of Poland, the basic concept is the same: cabbage leaves blanched and rolled around a spiced mixture of chopped meat, generally beef, and then simmered slowly in a sauce. 

To find out just how pervasive the traditions is, I contacted the Second Avenue Deli in New York City, a popular kosher deli that offers eat-in, take-out, and catering services. It professes to be, from its logo, “home to the finest Jewish culinary creations in New York City.”

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“Our stuffed cabbage rolls are a favorite among all our customers of Eastern European descent,” the manger of the deli, Terry, told me. “Not just the Jews.  But the demand increases in the fall because cabbage rolls are sweet for the New Year and are easy to serve in the sukkah.”

Second Avenue Deli’s cabbage rolls are loyal to the Ashkanazic tradition. Stuffed with chopped beef and rice, the rolls are served in a sweet and sour sauce. However, as I learned first hand, not all sweet and sour sauces are the same.

I grew up in a home with strong Ashkanazic culinary traditions. Both of my parents were born in Poland and came to the United States after World War II.

My mother, Ann Lenga, used to serve her stuffed cabbage rolls, or as they were known in my house, hollipshes, in a delicious sweet and sour sauce, every drop of which we would mop up with a slice or two of her challah.

Though we always had her cabbage rolls for Sukkot, we also had them throughout the year, especially when friends and family came for dinner. My mother’s hollipshes were legendary.  There were never any leftovers.

As much as I hung around the kitchen growing up, I had never watched my mother make hollipshes.  And until this past week, the only person who ever had was my son Zack. He had convinced my mother last year to give him a private lesson in how to make one of his favorite dishes. Last week, I became the second person to witness her wonderful and quirky method for making hollipshes.

In preparation for our cooking adventure, my mother gave me a shopping list. That was my first clue that even though these cabbage rolls were made in the Ashkenazic tradition, they contained ingredients that would have puzzled our ancestors. On that shopping list, along with the usual ground beef, onion, apple, and cabbage, were the following two items: “1 large jar Welch’s Grape Jelly; 1 large bottle Heinz Chili Sauce.”

“Mom,” I asked, “is this the way my grandmother made stuffed cabbage rolls?”

“Definitely not,” she said. “This is a recipe I came up with on my own. Though I don’t recall exactly how my mother made her rolls, I remember that she used fresh chopped tomatoes, onions, sugar, and sour salt to make the sauce.”

My mother also doesn’t recall how she came up with her truly unique recipe. I do know that neither Welch’s Grape Jelly or Heinz Chili Sauce were available in Radom, Poland in the 1930’s.

Regardless of the origin of the recipe’s surprise ingredients, the results of our cooking adventure that afternoon were scrumptious. It is thus with pleasure, and my mother’s permission, that I share with you this creative recipe for hollipshes.

As for serving suggestions, Terry from the Second Avenue Deli told me that diners can choose two side dishes to go with their cabbage rolls. The list of those side dishes includes egg barley, kasha, kasha varnishkes, rice, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, and kishke. Any of these would go well with my mother’s fabulous hollipshes.

Chag Sameach.

Margi Lenga Kahn is the mother of five and grandmother of three.  A cooking instructor at the Kitchen Conservatory, she is currently working on a project to preserve the stories and recipes of heritage cooks. She welcomes your comments and suggestions at [email protected].

• Second Avenue Deli. 162 East 33rd Street between Lexington and Third Avenue, New York City. (212) 689-9000; www.2ndavedeli.com.


Ann Lenga’s Hollipshes (Stuffed Cabbage in Sweet and Sour Sauce)

1 medium head of green cabbage, about 2 pounds, core removed

1 pound lean ground beef

½ cup uncooked rice, rinsed and drained

2 eggs

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Sauce Ingredients

2 cups water

1 large unpeeled apple, cored and coarsely chopped

1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1- 12 ounce jar Heinz Chili Sauce

1 cup Concord Grape Jelly

½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt, or more to taste

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, or more to taste

Place the whole head of cabbage in a large soup pot (large enough to hold the entire head of cabbage with room at the top) and fill pot with cold water.  Bring water to a rolling boil then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook cabbage until just wilted, about 10 minutes. Carefully drain cabbage (keep the water in the pot just in case the inner leaves need to be blanched again) in a colander and let sit until cabbage is cool enough to handle.

While cabbage is cooling, mix together beef, rice, eggs, and salt and pepper in a bowl using a wooden spoon or your hands.  Set aside.

Carefully remove one whole cabbage leaf from the head and place it on a counter, outside of leaf facing down.  Place a heaping 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of the leaf, 1-inch in from the stem end. Fold stem end over filling and bring in both sides of cabbage. Then roll cabbage to the end of the leaf. Place rolls, seam-side down, onto a plate.  Continue to roll cabbage leaves in this manner until all filling has been used.  Cover rolls with plastic wrap and set aside.

To make sauce, combine all sauce ingredients in a large pot. Slice enough of the remaining cabbage to equal about a cup, and add to mixture in pot. Bring sauce to a light boil. Carefully place cabbage rolls into boiling sauce, making a full layer on the bottom followed by another one on top, if needed.  

Bring mixture to a simmer; cover and cook for 3 hours.  After 3 hours, remove pan from heat and let mixture cool, covered, for an additional 30 minutes.

Alternatively, cabbage rolls can be refrigerated in a tightly covered dish for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.  To reheat, simply place rolls and sauce into an ovenproof dish and heat in a preheated 350- degree oven for 30-45 minutes, or until sufficiently warmed

Makes 14 rolls, serving 6-8people.