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Aug 1, 2008 07:15 PM

How do you pickle the grapeleaves?

Stuffed grapeleaves are to die for, but on less ambitious days, I like to wrap them with plain rice. I buy them by the jar in a local middle eastern shop, yet I'd like to try my hand at making it myself. The problem is I don't know how. Also, would I have to use a specific type of grapeleaf? Anyone care to share some pickling wisdom?

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    1. I am reaching back into my very old memory here. As I recall we used a "refrigerator pickle" recipe; a mixture of vinegar, little sugar and pickling spices. The leaves were blanched, packed and then the pickling spices poured over. You can guess which spices you want by reading the ingredients on a jar of leaves. This jar should be covered, allowed to cool and the kept refrigerated. You probably don't want to keep these on the shelf because you haven't processed them.
      As to what type of leaves you want the only thing that really matters here is the shape of the leaf. Some leaves (e.g.Zinfandel) are shaped so that they have deep indentations and won't hold anything you put in them. Between gathering them and blanching them must be a short time as they dry out quickly.

      1. Being of Lebanese decent, here's how we do it;
        Thompson grapes are most plentiful around California's Central Valley, pick leaves about 4-5 from the end of the vine. These will be the right size and most important tender leaves. Rinse the leaves and cut the stem close to the leaf. Put about 30 leaves in a bunch with a pinch of salt in the middle and tie with string. Blanch the leaves in a boiling salt bath with about 1/4 cup of picking salt in 8 qts of water with a splash of white vinegar for 1-2 minutes. Remove the bunch and place in a canning jar with a slice of lemon on the bottom. Stuff the jar with more bunches, then fill with the blanching liquid and place a thin slice of lemon on top. Seal jar the jar. My wife and I go picking from farms that I know the owners and do about 6-8 qts a year. When picking on the farm, you MUST do this in April before they do any spraying and when the leaves are tneder.

        3 Replies
          1. re: Bakersfield Hound

            Danny- great advice, but i was wondering, is it at all possible to pick grape leaves during this time of the year (December)? I am willing to drive anywhere in California..... i'm of Armenian descent, and i was supposed to make them for my family for Christmas : ( I am just looking for ANY alternative to using the store-bought leaves in a can. Thanks!

            1. re: laws561

              I'm not sure, I live in Brooklyn.
              Though I do know of CA's Wine Country. If I were you, I'd give a few nearby wineries a call and shoot some questions about their grapeleaves and about grapeleaves in the region in general.

          2. Pickled grape leaves are for people who don't have access to fresh ones. If you've got fresh grape leaves, why pickle them? Simply freeze them and take them out as needed. Once de-thawed they're ready to use. For immediate use, simply blanch for three minutes in boiling water, then use. That's what all those Balkan peasants do.

            4 Replies
            1. re: MarkC

              I disagree because if you keep them in the freezer long enough, they will freezer burn. Canning them will keep them fresh much longer. Besides, leaves are NOT available year round

              1. re: Bakersfield Hound

                Properly stored, they should not suffer freezer burn. Anyhow, the point is that with pickled grape leaves so easily available in the stores, why not take advantage of having fresh grape leaves? According to Aglaia Kremezi, author of numerous cookbooks, most Greek women use only fresh or home-frozen grape leaves, and the difference is noticeable. You can taste the leaf and not just the brine. If you can get only a few fresh grape leaves, she even recommends using them for flavoring, layering them between the dolmades.

                1. re: MarkC

                  BH and MC, I agree with MC to the point that fresh leaves properly bagged and frozen are convenient--in large part because as they thaw, they become perfect for wrapping--pliable and not fragile. But work quickly but not in haste.

                  1. re: MarkC

                    Been making them for most of my life and we blanch and freeze leaves and only use pickled leaves when we have to.

              2. Only the tender new leaves (of even size) should be picked and preserved. No mid-season oldies. This is a spring job.

                Blanche the leaves in a pot of 2 tsp salt to 1 qt boiling water for 30 seconds.

                Drain, remove the stem & about 1/2" of the midrib with scissors. Stack about 12, and roll into a loose cigar shape. Pack into hot sterilized wide mouth pint or qt canning jars, and add the following brine to cover (to within half-inch of the top):

                1 c lemon juice or 2 1/2 tsp citric acid (sold with canning supplies) to 1 qt water. Seal with hot two-part canning lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for pints.

                When using brined leaves, be sure to rinse in fresh cold water before stuffing.

                1 Reply
                1. re: toodie jane

                  Thank You toodie; can't wait to try this out in the spring!