We have a load of grape vines on the farm—a nice collection of slipskin grapes growing parallel to the high tunnel in the market garden and then 300+ wine grape vines growing on the hill of the reclaimed gravel pit on Lawrenceburg Road. Plus, more wild grape vines growing along the tree line throughout the farm. Obviously, our end game with all of those vines is grape production for sale, jam, and wine.
But in early June, long after pruning but before fruiting, the vines produce another edible harvest: grape leaves.
We’ve not done much with grape leaves in the past, but this past summer (2018) we finally got a bee in our bonnet to try harvesting, preserving, and cooking with grape leaves. We harvested 100+ leaves, preserved them in a simple saltwater solution, and just popped open the cans yesterday to cook up a mess of dolmeh.
And they were delicious—pork-y, rice-y, dilly lemony dolmeh perfect for staff lunch on a sunny and cold winter’s day served with fresh hummus, crispy veggies, and naan served hot right from the skillet.
NOTE: These are make-ahead treats. Dolmeh are meant to be eaten cold or room temp, and it takes some time for the flavors to meld. Plan to chill these overnight in the fridge.
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
½ cup scallions, chopped
2 cloves (about 1 tablespoon) garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 lb. ground pork (we prefer Woodland Farms Pork—which we sell on-farm)
⅓ cup split green peas
⅔ cup basmati rice, rinsed
½ cup fresh dill, finely chopped (or 1⁄3 cup dried dill)
2 tsp Garlic Scape Salt
½ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of saffron threads
ground pepper and salt, to taste (use lemon salt if you’ve got it)
Grape leaves, rinsed and stem removed (approx. 40)
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 TBSP honey
Heat the oil in a 12-inch saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, scallions, and garlic and, stirring frequently, cook until soft. Add the pork and cook until browned. Add saffron, dill, garlic scape salt, 1 TBSP honey and season with salt and pepper.
Add peas and rice along with 2 cups water. Cover and cook until water is absorbed, about 35-45 minutes. Remove from heat. Because the rice and peas will have substantially added to the volume of the filling, taste and season with salt and pepper again to your liking. Then stir in chopped parsley and cinnamon.
Working with one leaf at a time, flatten leaf and place about 2 tablespoons rice mixture in center. Fold bottom of leaf over filling, fold in sides, and roll into tight cylinder. Lay extra leaves over bottom of a 6-quart dutch oven, and then tightly layer dolmeh, seam-side down, on top. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, 2 TBSP honey, and ¼ cup water, and pour over the dolmeh. Cover tightly. Cook at medium-low heat for 35 minutes.
Allow to cool before serving, preferably in the fridge overnight. Seriously. When we tasted these warm right out of the dutch oven, they were not great. The seasoning seemed really strong and the lemon-y flavor of the exterior was overpowering. When we slid them into the fridge for an overnight sit, we did so thinking we had failed. By the next day. . . they were perfect.