From Dining at Monticello ©2005 edited by Damon Lee Fowler
This is one of the recipes copied out by Jefferson himself, originally entitled “A Cabbage Pudding.” Cooked whole and wrapped in a cloth, it does resemble the boiled puddings of the day. I have added illuminating details from Mary Randolph’s rendition, mixing some of the heart of the cabbage with the stuffing and serving it “whole with a little melted butter in the dish.” Since Jefferson only listed “sweet herbs,” I’ve chosen the herbs usually used with beef in the period. Originally, the beef was finely chopped by hand, not ground, but readers who are not as concerned for authenticity may substitute ground beef. At Monticello, they would most likely have used a tin-lined copper or iron pot – and may have cooked in on the stew stove. For home cooks today, a heavy-bottomed stewing pan or Dutch oven will answer. It’s a lovely recipe, and not as complicated as it looks.
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 large green cabbage (about 2 pounds)
- 8 ounces very lean beef sirloin, finely chopped
- 8 ounces beef suet, finely chopped
- 1 small white onion, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, marjoram, or summer savory or 2 teaspoons crumbled
- dried herbs
- 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
- 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
- Whole black pepper in a pepper mill
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove the outer green leaves of the cabbage, saving several of them if they are unblemished, & wash well under cold water. Slip the cabbage & any reserved pouter leaves into the pot, return it to a boil, & cook until the outer leaves soften & can be pulled back easily.
Lift the cabbage out of the water & drain in a colander, leaving the water in the pot. Carefully pull back two or three rows of the leaves, but leave them attached to the stem. Cut a large cross through the center, going all the way to the stem, but talking care not to puncture any of the outer leaves. Bend back the outer layers of the center and cut out the rest of it, leaving the outer layers attached to the base.
Finely chop the center portion of the cabbage and toss it in a large bowl with beef, suet & onion. Stir in the herbs, bread crumbs, & egg yolks & season liberally with salt & several grindings of pepper.
Spread a 14-inch-square of double-folded cheesecloth flat & place the cabbage in the center. Gently pull back the leaves and pack the stuffing into the center, being careful not to break the outer leaves. Fold the leaves back over the stuffing & wrap any reserved leaves around it so the cabbage appears whole. Fold the cloth over the cabbage, wrap it with twine, & knot it securely.
Bring the cooking liquid back to a boil. Carefully lower the cabbage into it, return to a boil, & lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer until the filling is fully cooked and the cabbage is tender, about 2 hours.
Lift the cabbage from the pot, draining well, & removed the cloth. Transfer to a warm serving platter & rub it with butter. Serve whole, cutting it into individual wedges at the table.