Derek and I see our garden with different perspectives. He says "Grow it, and then people will eat it", where my opinion is, "show people how to eat it and then they'll grow it!"—Derek for production and mine for the use of it. So, when there is a flower, tree, vine or greens growing, I'm always thinking of ways to extend the season to enjoy them. Right now, grapes are on my mind.
In our back garden that get the most hours of sunlight, we have encouraged grapes to grow over our tin shed. The bees love it, they're beautiful and fresh looking, I can see them from my kitchen window, and the radiant warmth makes for a happy and productive vine. Right now, the fruit is setting, and the leaves are the perfect size and texture to preserve for winter stock. If you leave it too late in the season, the leaves become unpalatable.
I find that my late Spring and early Summer are busy with reaping the benefits of my Autumn work, leaving more time to enjoy the burgeoning roses, wildflowers and abundance of greens. The grape leaves are no exception. It's a labour of love, and I'll be preserving fresh grape leaves as time allows. The grape leaves are perfect for putting into your pickles to keep them crisp and make wonderful wraps for fish when cooking and the right time to collect the leaves is from now until Christmas. Filled with goodness, grape leaves are both low in calories and high in fiber. They also have high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin K. When used to make Dolmades (or Dolmathes Gialantsi) they are boosted by the addition of dill, mint and parsley that are all good for digestive health.
Here's how I preserve my grape leaves.
Preserving Fresh Grape Leaves
Late Spring - Early Summer
approx 100 fresh (young) grapevine leaves, stems snipped. Try to get leaves that are all close in size, and that will be large enough food into.
1 cup non-Iodised salt
24 cups of water - 12 hot & 12 ice water
3/4 Cup Lemon Juice (previously bottled or boiled)
1 whole egg - to test the brine
3 large Jars - I use Agee.
As always, when preserving, always ensure that your jars and lids are sanitised. We don't want this seasonal delight to spoil.
1. Wash your grapevine leaves and then divide them into piles of 10.
2. Add your salt to 12 cups of water and bring to the boil. It should taste as strong as the sea. You can check whether the brine is salty enough by dropping an egg into the salted water. If the egg floats, then you're good to go.
3. In another pot, put 12 cups of ice water.
4. Boil each leaf for 20 seconds, spoon out and place into the cold water.
5. When you have completed a pile of 10 leaves, roll the pile of leaves in a tube shape and carefully put into a jar.
6. Continue until you have filled the jar. I can typically fit three tubes of the leaves into my Agee jar.
7. In your jar put 1/4 Cup of previously boiled or bottled lemon juice. (We don't want any wild yeasts on this to cause fermentation)
8. Take your brine off the heat and pour into your jars. There should be enough for three jars. The air space between the leaves may take some time to fill, so go over your jars a few times to ensure they are filled.
9. Carefully put the lids on each jar and make sure it's tight. These will keep for up to one year in a cool place out of direct sunlight.
Take a look at this delicious and easy to prepare dish on the our reciipes page.
Usually known as Dolmades, this delicious recipe is super easy, vegetarian and ridiculously cost effecient for a full flavour impact. This recipe has rice in it, which I often replace with quinoa.