In Polish, it's called galumbki (the "l" is pronounced like a "w," sort of like gah-woom-key), and it's something I've been eating since I was a little kid. I remember watching my mother wrestle with the cabbage, blanching the whole head, peeling off leaves, wrapping the meat in the leaves ...
It was a pretty time-consuming process.
And it required cabbages with relatively large leaves, so it wasn't something that could be made on a whim. It was pretty much guaranteed she's make it in March, because large, leafy cabbages were usually available around St. Patrick's Day.
But the rest of the year was hit-or-miss.
So when mom made stuffed cabbage, she made a lot. Because she knew she wouldn't be making it again for a long time. Sometimes she'd buy two big cabbages and we'd be eating them for a week. But that's okay. I absolutely loved when she made them.
But of course, every big head of cabbage had plenty of small leaves in the center. Mom cut those in chunks - bigger than what you'd use for cole slaw or sauerkraut. And that cabbage would sit under the stuffed cabbage and get all soft and tomato-y. It was one of my favorite parts of the dish.
On the other hand, the leaves that wrapped the meat weren't all that great - they were sort of thin and flimsy. I would have been happy if they disappeared.
So ... when I saw a photo of meatballs and cabbage, the light bulb above my head lit up.
Woah. Why not skip the leaves and the wrapping that takes so long, and just cook the cabbage and make some meatballs?
This isn't really about a recipe, because you can use any stuffed cabbage recipe. Seriously.
I made mine in my slow cooker, first cooking the cabbage and some onion and red bell pepper to soften it a bit, then adding the meatballs and sauce, and cooking it until the cabbage and meatballs were cooked through.
In winter, I'd probably make this in a Dutch oven in the oven.
The HUGE benefit is that this takes so much less time. No need to fuss with peeling cabbage leaves. No wrapping of meat in leaves. Just whack the cabbage into chunks and make some meatballs.
And no more flimsy cabbage leaves.
I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out. Probably because I was stuck on the "traditional" version, so I couldn't imagine doing it any other way.
But this is such a simple idea. I should have thought of it years ago. And it makes the preparation so much easier.
Now, I can make a small batch any time I want to - no need to wait for large cabbages to appear at the market, and I don't have to wait until I have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.