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.