If you live in grape country — and most of us do — May through early July is the best time to pick grape leaves to use for dolmas, or stuffed grape leaves, throughout the rest of the year.
No, you don’t need to use wine grape leaves. Concord grape leaves work fine, as do wild grape leaves — and those grow in most of the United States.
This method for pickling grape leaves in an acidic brine comes from an excellent book on canning, Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Pickling, which is my current favorite picking book.
Makes 1 pint
- 30-40 grape leaves, stems removed
- 1/4 cup lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add enough salt to make it taste like the sea.
- Get another large pot of water ready — this is what you will can the grape leaves in. Remember you will need something to keep the bottom of the pint jar up off the bottom of the pot. I use a vegetable steamer, but a bunch of canning lids (the rings, not the gaskets) works well as a platform, too.)
- Get a large bowl of ice water ready.
- Boil the grape leaves for 30-45 seconds, then plunge into the ice water to cool. Drain them once the leaves are all cool.
- Take about 6 grape leaves at a time and roll them up into a cigar from the side — not the top or bottom. You will need to fold over the leaf end to fit into the pint jar.
- Pack the grape leaves into the jar, making sure you have some head space at the top.
- Boil 1 cup of water in a small saucepan and add the lemon juice or citric acid. Boil for a minute or two, then pour over the grape leaves.
- Wipe the edge of the pint jar with a clean towel and seal the jar. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.