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With the first Spoon of the new year comes my naming of the Golden Spoon award. This recognition goes to the recipe I believe was the past year’s best.

This time it’s personal. As an homage to my mother Mary Maxine Freear Revelle Boecker — she was known by many names — I’m giving the honor to her. And, since 2017 was the centennial of her birth, I figured it was time to acknowledge that she was a terrific cook.

She was born on July 7, 1917, in Bakersfield. The family moved to Santa Ynez when she was a toddler. She attended College School through the second grade; then, the family moved to Ventura. In 1935, she married my father, Harold Denton Revelle, and a few years later I came on the scene.

My great grandparents ran the College Hotel in Santa Ynez. My great grandmother, Mary “Molly” Scott Jamison Bray, was known for her cooking, while her husband Bill Bray served as Santa Ynez’s sheriff.

Molly passed down her cooking skills to her daughter, my grandmother, Willa Glennora Bray Freear, and to my mother.

Both my great grandmother and grandmother came from large families. Farmers and ranchers, they worked long, hard hours and ate heartily.

The women in my family loved to cook. They didn’t shy away from experimenting with other cuisines, so dinners were varied and highly enjoyable.

My mother cooked dishes from Asia to the Middle East and could replicate any recipe that crossed her palate.

I was raised in a foodie environment long before “foodie” became trendy, and I’m grateful.

So, drum roll please … from November here’s my mother’s cabbage rolls. A true winner.

By the way, this recipe makes a lot of cabbage rolls — but they freeze well. Place single servings into freezer bags. They’ll keep for up to three months. When ready, thaw and heat over low heat in a covered sauce pan; or thaw and zap for a couple of minutes in the microwave.

Cabbage Rolls a la Maxine

1 large head cabbage (Use well-rounded heads of cabbage with smooth leaves)

2 lbs. hamburger

1 c. rice

1 Tbsp. salt

2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper

1 medium-sized onion, chopped fine

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3 cloves garlic, chopped fine

2 Tbsp. dried parsley

Two 32-oz. jars (or cans) sauerkraut

Two 14½-oz. cans diced tomatoes

Fill a large pot with well-salted water and bring to a boil. Core cabbage and carefully place cut side down into boiling water. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until leaves begin to separate. Remove leaves, drain well and set aside while making meat mixture.

Mix hamburger with rice, salt, pepper, onion, garlic and parsley. Place a layer — about half of one jar — of sauerkraut in pot. When cool, gently shave vein from one cabbage leaf, being careful not to cut through. Place about 2 tablespoons meat mixture at bottom of leaf and roll as a burrito. Fold bottom of leaf over filling, fold sides in toward center, and then roll.

Place rolls, seam side down, into pot on top of sauerkraut. Continue shaving veins and filling. When bottom of pot is covered with filled rolls, top with remaining half a jar of sauerkraut and contents from one can of tomatoes. Roll remaining leaves, place rolls in pot and layer as above. Continue rolling and layering until all leaves are filled. Chop small center leaves and add to pot along with sauerkraut. 

Rinse jars and cans with a little water and add liquid to pot. Make meat balls from any leftover filling and place in among the cabbage rolls. Cover, place over high heat, turn heat down when liquid begins to boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Longtime Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at thewoodenspoon@juno.com.

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