Grape leaves are wonderful for wrapping food in to cook as taste bombs! The best time to harvest Wild Grape leaves is in the Spring when the leaves are most tender. The largest ones work best. After collecting them, wash, remove stems, layer about 20 together and roll into a cylinder and submerge into a thick brine (water salted to the point of saturation). Not sure how long they last like that because we keep eating them. This recipe is really yummy.
Dolmathes: Stuffed Wild Grape Leaves
(need two cooks for this recipe)
Wild Grape leaves
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup rice
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
4 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
For the avgolemono sauce
3 large eggs 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 2 medium lemons) 1 cup hot reserved cooking liquid from the dolmathes
For the dolmathes
1. Place leaves in a strainer and discard the liquid. Carefully separate the leaves, rinse with cold water, and let drain.
2. Combine lamb, onion, rice, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, parsley, mint, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.
3. Lay out one grape leaf and remove the tough stem. Place about 1 tablespoon (or less, depending upon the size of the leaf) of filling in the center.
4. Carefully fold the top and sides of the leaf over the filling.
Roll tightly into a cylinder (it should look like a miniature football) and place in a large saucepan.
Repeat with remaining leaves and filling, arranging dolmathes side by side until the bottom of the pan is completely covered. Continue layering dolmathes until they are all in the pan.
7. Place chicken broth in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour broth over dolmathes, along with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer until rice and beef are cooked though, about 20 minutes. Remove dolmathes to a serving platter. Strain and measure remaining cooking liquid, reserving 1 cup to make the avgolemono sauce. Cover dolmathes loosely with foil to keep warm. Wipe out the saucepan used to cook the dolmathes and set aside.
For the avgolemono
1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs on high until they are light yellow and foamy, about 2 minutes.
2. Add lemon juice in a steady stream and continue beating for 1 minute more.
3. Add reserved dolmathes cooking liquid in a steady stream and whip for 1 minute to incorporate.
4. Pour sauce into the saucepan used to cook the dolmathes. Heat, whisking constantly, over low heat until sauce is steaming (do not let it come to a boil), about 3 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
5. Discard any liquid that has accumulated on the platter of dolmathes. Pour sauce over warm dolmathes or serve on the side.
Check out pictures of foraging for Wild Grape and brining them for preservation here: