The Vine Leaves in your Backyard

I spent the weekend a while back at my friend Karyn’s house which is just outside the island on Montreal. Even if basically part of Montreal for me it still felt like a trip outside of town. We had such a blast with great food (she will one day actually send me a guest blog of the breakfast she made (RIGHT?)) and we had a great day for a neighborhood party in honor of Fire Men Day. NO we saw zero shirtless firemen…I was very upset!

But the first night was one of BBQ, relaxation and cocktails, followed by a relaxing morning by the pool. We were talking about the vegetation and future plans of Kryn’s backyard. “Yeah those are vine leaves used for Dolmades’ she says. WHAT? Like I can just pick some and cook with them? ‘YES, take some” Karyn said.

Well she did not have tell me twice. I left there with 10 leaves. Here is my first dolmades experience! I had no clue what to do with them when I got home. I found ALL my answers here at Ellen’s Kitchen. I know you roll your mixture in the leaves…but what do you do to the leaves? What is the mixture and can I mess around with it? How on earth do I roll the leaf? How do I cook it? Ellen answered all my questions…phew!

Dolmades Recipe

The leaves: real directions on how to use fresh leaves.

Blanch loose, a dozen at a time, by placing in strong salted boiling brine, 1 C. salt to 4 C. water. Bring water back to a boil and then remove leaves immediately with a skimmer or pancake turner; and then plunge the leaves immediately into cold/ ice water. Drain, dry with paper towels or shake dry. Don’t omit this, it is done to set the color and also prevents enzyme action while freezing. Use immediately, or stack in rolls of six, roll from the side and tie; wrap in airtight plastic and freezer bags.

The Filling

Usually dolmas is filled with seasoned rice, sometimes with a bit of meat as well. I invented my own filling, no measurements, just did it by feeling. Ingredients are:

  • ground beef
  • couscous
  • 1 egg
  • onions
  • garlic
  • tomatoes
  • ginger
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • salt, pepper

Stuffing and rolling

Trim stem off. With  with shiny of leaf down, place a small spoonful of prepared stuffing at the stem end of the leaf, roll about one turn. Fold in the two sides. Continue rolling to the tip of the leaf. The package should be firm, but not tight, as the stuffing will expand while cooking.


See Ellen’s Kitchen for full instructions but I steamed mine. I did no have enough leaves for all the meat so I lined my steamer with parchment paper and flattened my leftover meat on the bottom…like a thin meatloaf. Then I placed the rolled leaves with the seam side down. I placed the basket in a large enough pot with 2-3 cups of broth. Once the broth was boiling I lowered to simmer and steamed about 45 minutes covered.

Finally I prepared a quit sauce to serve with….

Egg and lemon sauce, Greek style:

  • 2-3 eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • juice of 2-3 lemons
  • broth from the dish being cooked (or hot beef or chicken broth or stock)


Beat the egg whites until foamy. Beat in egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and 2-3 ladle full of broth, beating continuously. Transfer mixture to a small saucepan and heat gently. Whisk while heating, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not boil.

10 comments to The Vine Leaves in your Backyard

  • Conor – you are better off buying the leaves in a jar then using cabbage leaves. With cabbage leaves it would turn more into the Eastern European ‘cigar rolls’, just top with a tomato sauce.

  • Nice work! I guess you could do something similar with cabbage leaves if you didn’t have any vine leaves on hand? The vine leaves are a fair bit prettier than cabbage though!

  • Who would have thought this post would bring back memories for some and make others run to their backyard lol. let me know if you make some.

  • We dont have grape leaves here in the Phils, but my hubby ones tasted it from a seatmate in a flight going back to Manila. He forgot the name, but the description is the same, meat wrapped in grape vine leaves. I would love to try this one day…

  • Evelyne…I have to admit that I very rarely choose to eat dolmades because from past eating experiences they didn’t turn out to be to my liking.
    Maybe if they had the ingredients you stuffed them with…we’d being having a whole other conversation ;o)

    Well executed and quite promising.

    Ciao for now and have a great weekend,

  • When my grandmother lived in NY she had a grape vine in her backyard, also. Now she uses jarred grape leaves to stuff, but they are still th best ones I’ve ever had!

  • Picking your own vine leaves, how cool! I tried to make dolmades once, but they totally fell apart… Yours look perfect!

  • Ya know, I didn’t think about it but I have TONS of concord grape leaves near my pool. I am going to do this before they all die off. Thanks for reminding me!

  • Oohhhhh! Des dolmas!!! J’avais l’habitude d’en rouler avec ma mère et ma grand-mère quand j’étais petite !! Ça fait longtemps… mais je suis une pro du roulage ! 😉 C’est si bon ! Quant à la recette, elle n’était pas tout à fait la même (et les dolmas étaient plus allongés) mais je suis sûre que cette recette est très bonne aussi !

  • After living in my house for 10 years, it suddenly struck me this summer that I could use the decorative champagne grapevine in my backyard to make dolmades. Why it took so long for me to realize this, I have no idea. During next summer’s fresh growth, I’m going to try lacto-fermenting some jars of leaves… I got in one batch of dolmades, but most of the leaves were already too buggy.

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