Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Grape Leaves

A friend on Facebook mentioned that it was time to pick grape leaves to use in cooking. I have always wanted to try cooking things wrapped in grape leaves, but never thought about it at the right time of year. Her nudge was what I needed.

Can you preserve grape leaves, I wondered? I remembered seeing them in grocery stores, packed in jars in some sort of liquid. My friend wasn't sure, so I looked online.
There are a lot of ways to store grape leaves, I learned. This website tells how to brine them (store in salted water). Another has every preservation method you can think of including drying, and I found others that also cover brining and freezing. I found recipes too, including this one and this one that I am going to try. I learned that the wrapped bundles of meat and rice are called dolmades or dolmadakias and there are many variations with different herbs and spices. How did I live this long and not try these?

I decided to try the brining method, and since I've never tried to cook with grape leaves before and don't know if I'll like them, I thought one good-sized jar of leaves was plenty.

Walking through the vines a couple years ago

We have a lot of grapes on our place--about 12 vines, I think, so I had plenty to pick from. It's not so easy as it sounds, though. I needed leaves that were fairly young, large enough to wrap things in and with no holes. Since Japanese beetles arrived this week, the "no holes" rule proved the biggest challenge. However after some careful picking I ended up with a big basket full of leaves that looked like they were the right kind. I made sure to nip the stems as close to the leaf as I could too, so they didn't poke any new holes.


Inside, I washed and dried each leaf, then stacked them up in stacks of about 12-15 each. I rolled them up from big end to little end because that way it was easier to secure the bundles into the "cigar" shape I saw on other websites. Was this right? I don't know, but it seemed to work. I could not get the bundles to stay wrapped, however, until I got some thread and wrapped a long piece around each bundle. I didn't have to tie the thread, just wrapped it around several times and it held the leaves in place perfectly.


Then I got a gallon of water and added a pound of pickling salt to it. The recipes said that the brine was strong enough when a raw egg (in the shell!) would float on top with about 3/4" of the eggshell breaking through the surface of the water. The one pound salt to one gallon of water ratio worked perfectly. You don't need to heat the brine.


I filled the jar I was using, a half-gallon blue Mason jar that I just love--about 2/3 full of the brine and packed my grape leaves "cigars" into the jar tightly. I had enough leaves (and I'd picked about 100, I think) to fill the jar completely full, with about a dozen leaves left over. I put the leftovers in a plastic bag, squeezed out the air, and put them in the fridge to use this week.


I put the cap on the jar, and I was done! How simple was that? Now I'm anxious to see how the leaves do and what they will be like when I am ready to use them. I have to say, they look pretty cool in the jar.


Have any of you tried preserving grape leaves, or have a recipe you love? Please share! I'm ready for a new food adventure.

11 comments:

lisa said...

Thank you for sharing...never knew you could eat grape leaves..we have 5 grape vines..I am trying new recipes because I am so tired of the same thing over and over and how neat it would be to fix something like this..Lisa

warren said...

A good friend of mine in college used to collect leaves and bring them back to his dorm room where he would cook up all sorts of stuff with them. He had Lebanese ancestry so his recipes came from that region. The taste was...interesting I'd say. I hope yours turn out "interesting" or better!

Granny Sue said...

They were awesome, Warren. I'll post the recipes we used this evening. I've gotta go pick more leaves because I found that it takes a lot of them, and I'll be doing this more often.

Angela said...

Granny Sue I think your farm has just about everything one would want to eat growing there. I think it is great. I hope to get our farm with lots of different varieties of fruits and veggies on it real soon!

Granny Sue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Granny Sue said...

It's fun, Angela, to have such a variety of foods just outside the door--makes cooking easier too! Last night's recipes called for basil, sage, rosemary, onions and garlic which were all in my garden. Larry cooked new potatoes with our first half-runners, so what we bought veggie-wise was cucumbers and green peppers because these aren't ready yetin the garden.

smallpines.com said...

You know, I don't even recall ever eating anything in grape leaves. I like Greek food, so I'm sure I must have had them and just don't remember. I'll have to try them again. Furthermore - You're encouraging me to go find some far-north tolerant grapes! We'll see if such a thing exists. Great post! You know how I love this food stuff!

Country Whispers said...

Can't say that I have eaten grape leaves before. We used to have a (Greek) family owned restuarant in town that had a Greek night each week and I know that they were always on the menu for that day.

Granny Sue said...

Pines, you've got to try them! I'm ready to move on to other recipes after this first taste.

There was a Greek restaurant here for a while too, Jessica, but they didn't serve anything like this and the only time I ate there I was not impressed. I think you might like these recipes, although I will say that goat cheese is a little expensive for my usual budget. But for a once in a while splurge, it's not really that bad. What I used in the first recipe cost about $3.00.

TheresaandJay said...

I'm going to look at my grape leaves tonight. I want to try this, I love middle east foods and this would be right up that alley. Your recipe for goat cheese and chicken sounds delicious...dinner this weekend!
love you tm

Twisted Fencepost said...

No, but I read on another blog that you should put a grape leaf in the bottom of the jar your will use to make pickles. It's supposed to keep the pickles crisper.

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