hollapse (mennonite cabbage rolls)

hollapse: never heard of it? now you have ::::

I recently finished reading the bestseller Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. An English professor and talented writer, Janzen adroitly and humorously examines her life after two crises: 1) her husband of 15 years leaving for a man he met off of a gay website and 2) a car accident rendering her in pain and forcing her to rely on the help of others to care for herself temporarily, save for her non-painful fingers which she got busy with writing first e-mails then her memoir. She’s a a pretty cool lady.

While most of the book had me mourning and laughing out loud at the sorrow and the sometimes ridiculousness of her situation, her brilliant humorous take on much of it, and her overall likableness, I still recall my favorite section: the description of Mennonite foods, specifically Hollapse  (pronounced hol-lap-SAY), or Beef-Filled Cabbage Rolls.

She knew that while college kids eat just about anything (“cardboard,” her ex-husband remarked), she was changed when a student named Ricky raved (for the exact wording, you’ll have to see her book) about the Hollapse,  packing away platefuls of it at a departmental banquet held for graduating seniors. While college students may eat cardboard, they do not go back for seconds or thirds of corrugated paper. Hollapse  won me over too, after Ricky’s enthusiasm and from Janzen’s acceptance that the strong whiff of cabbage has a place at a communal table. Or maybe it was a fraternity house, where such smells are hanging in the air already. Whatever.

Janzen doesn’t grace us with the descriptively unwieldy, boot-thudding, “shameful” recipes of her youth, only whetting our appetites with descriptive imagery. I headed to the internet in search of Pluma Moos  (Fruit Soup), Platz  (Coffee Cake with Fruit), and Hollapse. I found Hollapse on a funny little website here for “Menno dishes.” Unfortunately, its author did not provide a contact e-mail so I could pick her or his brain on the details of the recipe. So many questions: how many cabbage leaves? Does one really use all of the cabbage, even the itsy-bitsy leaves and make mini rolls? Just one tablespoon of meat mixture in a big leaf? (I changed it to 2 tablespoons for mine.) How much tomato juice? What size pan? I pulled out the big guns. I went to the expert. I e-mailed Rhoda Janzen.

It was a shot in the dark. After a couple of months of waiting and a couple more rounds of Hollapse making, I could wait no longer. I finally decided to post the recipe without the Mennonite recipe tutelage of Dr. Janzen. I’m sure she is extremely busy and likely receives so much e-mail, she couldn’t possibly read through each one. I chalk it up as a loss for making a great post, but a win for adding to my casserole repertoire. Even anti-vegetable picky eater Peach gave it the thumbs-up.

Next time you think back to your childhood and perhaps some less than desirable dishes, remember Hollapse.  You may be surprised when you revisit those dishes and find that you like them, no matter how they smell.


5.0 from 1 reviews
hollapse (mennonite cabbage rolls)
Serves: 6
  • 1 pound raw ground beef
  • one head of cabbage (I had some small leftover leaves.)
  • ¼ cup white rice, cooked (although brown rice would work well)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • salt and pepper, to taste (I used 2 teaspoons of salt and a few twists of fresh black pepper)
  • tomato juice, enough to cover rolls while cooking (1½ to 2 cups is what I measured out and used.)*
  1. Remove cabbage core and steam leaves 10 minutes. I steamed the larger leaves and left the small leaves on the core for another use.
  2. Mix beef, rice, egg, salt and pepper.
  3. Wrap 2 tablespoonfuls of beef-rice mixture into a cabbage leaf. Wrap as you would a flat sheet over a pillow, tucking in the ends then roll up, burrito-style. Lie each cabbage package side-by-side in pan. (Janzen remarks in her book that she uses toothpicks to secure the rolls. I didn't do this and felt they held together fine.)
  4. Pour water and melted butter over rolls.
  5. Cook 350 degrees F for 1½ hours, covered with foil.
  6. Add tomato juice and cook for another 30 minutes, uncovered. Makes about 12 rolls (more if you use less filling in each cabbage leaf).
NOTE: Most of my "adaptations" are clarifications.

Special equipment: 8 x 11.5 x 2 inch baking pan, vegetable steamer

* The type of tomato juice you use will change the amount of salt you use for the dish. For example, if you use the low-sodium tomato juice, then increase overall salt. If you use the spicy tomato juice, nice! Probably not so Menno though.




  • Rebecca November 8, 2012 Reply

    lol, I too loved that book. I read the book as I have a Mennonite background, but my parents did not practice the religion. My memories of my grandmas and the stories of my aunts and uncles told of their childhood. Oh and the food yumm.
    I have to say you did miss the sauerkraut that should be in the Holubschi as we have spelt it.

    • story November 8, 2012 Reply

      Ah! Sauerkraut! It’s kind of in the same smelly vein as hollapse except more vinegary, I expect. I agree, it was a great book. Very witty.

  • Frieda October 7, 2016 Reply

    This is he second time I’m making your recipe. First attempt was a colossal success. Doing two batches. Adding some spicy seasoning. Late husband was Dutch and introduced me to Sambal Oelek (Indonesia influence with the Dutch) and voila, I stuffed this soft seasoning in the middle of the meat portion. Reminder, a little bit of this heat goes a long way. But what a zesty kick. Not for everyone, so I make sure, I make both traditional hollapse as well as the spicy variety. I’m proud of my Mennonite heritage.

    • story October 8, 2016 Reply

      That sounds great! I’ve done a little spice but usually tone it down for my kids. As they get older, I’ll try more.

  • Twila mason August 5, 2017 Reply

    Just a question about your Mennonite cabbage roll recipe do u add the beef raw or cook it first before u add it to the rice and eggs mixture because I’ve usually made the Ukrainian recipe but I’d like to try this one if u could answer this for me your recipe isn’t clear on that

    • story kitchen August 5, 2017 Reply

      It’s raw beef. Thank you for asking! I’ll change it in the recipe.

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