In a large stockpot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Season with 3 large pinches of salt.
Core the cabbage and submerge the whole head into boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove with tongs. Drain and cool.
Make the Filling
In a skillet, heat olive oil and add chopped onion with a sprinkle of salt. Allow the onion to “sweat” or release it’s juices and turn translucent, then add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add ground beef and stir for just 2 minutes. You don’t want to fully cook the beef yet.
Add drained rice to beef and stir in parsley, dill, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Roll the Cabbage
Gently remove whole leaves from cooked cabbage. Lay flat and use the shape of the leaf like a bowl. Add 1 large scoop of filling. Roll once, then tuck edge in like a burrito. Do not roll too tightly because the rice will expand while cooking. Repeat.
Cover the bottom of a large pot or dutch oven with sauerkraut.
Layer the rolls, seam side down, over the bed of sauerkraut.
Braise the Rolls
Place a plate on top of the rolls. This will hold them down and prevent them from moving. Cover with diluted tomato paste, thyme sprigs, and add just enough water to cover the rolls.
Simmer for 1 hour, covered, at medium low heat – during the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the juice of 1 lemon and season with salt to taste. Carefully remove hot plate. Serve rolls with sauerkraut and garnish with extra herbs if desired.
Recipe Notes:Purple cabbage was paired with purple sauerkraut but green works equally well.Ground Beef: Lean means 85% ground beef to fat. You can use any ground beef you want.White Rice: Long grain white rice must be soaked for 30 minutes before stuffing.Herbs: Fresh herbs are used for the best flavor because they are more bright and vibrant than dry herbs. If you don't like dill, you can leave it out or substitute for thyme or fennel fronds.Braising: Cooking the cabbage rolls submerged in a simmering broth cooks the cabbage and filling while imparting flavors of tomato, thyme, and lemon.