Can you freeze stuffed grape leaves?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you freeze stuffed grape leaves?”, and how to make stuffed grape leaves?

Can you freeze stuffed grape leaves?

Yes, you can freeze stuffed grape leaves. Freezing extends the shelf-life of the leaves up to 6 months (2). It is a great way to fix your quick meal wants. Read on to find out how to freeze fresh grape leaves.

Thousands of grape cultivars are available throughout the world. The fruits can be found in a variety of colors ranging from red, yellow, and green to almost black. Grape vines grow best in regions where maximum daily temperatures do not exceed 40 °C and minimum daily temperatures do not fall below 15 °C. In Europe, the main producers of grapes are Italy, France, and Spain, with EU-member countries accounting for 65% of global production over the past 7 years (1).

How to freeze grape leaves at home?

Ingredients 

  • Freshly picked grapevine leaves
  • Kitchen twine or string
  • Scissors
  • Large pot
  • Tongs
  • Stovetop
  • Ice bath in large bowl
  • Freezer containers or freezer bags
  • Freezer

Harvesting 

Any type of domesticated or wild variety of leaves would do, as long as they are not sprayed with any insecticides and do not break during stuffing and rolling. You will want to avoid leaves with holes, and should pick the ones that appear light green, shiny and smooth. It is best to pick them before the first spray in the spring (3).

In this regard, the sultana (Thompson seedless) grape is of particular importance. Since it has all the desirable traits for making dolmas.

Always look for the firm but tender leaves with no holes or tears and as wide as your palm so that they can hold the stuffing. Pluck the 2-3 leaves that are present above the fruit and leave the bottom ones growing on the vine.

Blanching 

Blanching inactivates certain enzymes, removes the surface dirt, and enhances the quality of the frozen grape leaves. However, you can skip this step if you want. The advantages of blanching can be illustrated with reference to cauliflower and spinach: if they are frozen without blanching they become unpalatable after only a few months due to the development of ‘off’ flavors and odors caused primarily by oxidation of membrane lipids. If these vegetables are blanched before freezing they have a storage life of 18–24 months. The conditions of blanching are chosen so as to ensure inactivation of the enzymes responsible for oxidation while minimizing loss of sensory quality and nutrients (4).

  1. Prepare an ice bath.
  2. Fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil.
  3. Prepare the leaves by cutting the stems and any hardened veins near the stem.
  4. Make a cigar-shaped bundle by loosely rolling about 20 grape leaves. Secure the bundle by tying a kitchen twine in the center of the bundle. 

The twine should be tight enough to hold the eaves together but loose enough to ensure the boiling water gets to all the inner parts of the leaves.

  1. Lower the bundle of leaves in boiling water hold it there for 1 minute. Then plunge the bundle in the ice water bath to halt the cooking process.

Freezing 

Put the blanched leaf bundles in a freezer bag. Drizzle some olive oil on the bundles and seal the bag. Make sure to squeeze out as much air as possible from the bag. Label and freeze.

How to make stuffed grape leaves with cucumber yogurt sauce?

Ingredients 

  • ½ pound fresh grape leaves (Use canned leaves as a substitute)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced

For the filling:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ pound ground lamb
  • 1 ½ cups uncooked short-grain rice
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup dried currants (you can use dried cranberries if you can’t find currants)
  • ½ tsp baharat
  • Salt to taste

For the marinating sauce:

  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper 

Procedure 

  1. If you are working with fresh grape leaves, soak the leaves in salted boiling water for about 1 minute. Then drain the water and set the leaves aside.
  2. If you are using canned leaves, you need to remove the vinegar from the leaves. For this, rinse the leaves twice with hot water and then twice with cold water.
  3. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil. Add the onions and saute until they become translucent. This should take about 7 minutes. Keep the flame on medium heat to avoid browning the onions.
  4. Cook the onions for another 2-3 minutes after adding fresh garlic and pine nuts.
  5. Brown the ground lamb meat on high heat, then stir in the uncooked rice. Mix well.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat. Season with some salt and pepper. Add mint leaves, currants, and baharat.
  7. On a clean working surface, place a grape leaf with its veiny side up. Place 1 teaspoon of the prepared filling right in the center of the leaf. Then make a tight roll by rolling the leaf from bottom to top. Repeat this process with other leaves.
  8. Spread some sliced tomatoes to cover the bottom of a large pot. The leaves should be fully packed and no empty spaces should be left between them. When you are done with the first layer, spread another layer of the rolled leaves, this time without the tomatoes.
  9. Drizzle the marinating sauce over the rolled leaves. Then sprinkle some sliced garlic.
  10. Put a lid on the pan and bring it to a boil. Then cook the leaves on low heat for 1 ½ hour. Serve with cucumber sauce and enjoy.

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question “Can you freeze stuffed grape leaves?”, and how to make stuffed grape leaves?

References

  1. Khorramifar A, Karami H, Wilson AD, Sayyah AHA, Shuba A, Lozano J. Grape Cultivar Identification and Classification by Machine Olfaction Analysis of Leaf Volatiles. Chemosensors, 2022, 10, 125. 
  2. Using Fresh Grape Leaves. Food Preserver Program of Sacramento County. University of California. 2017.
  3. Havern, G. Safe methods for picking and storing grape leaves. Michigan State University. 2022.
  4. Evans, Judith A., ed. Frozen food science and technology. John Wiley & Sons, 2009.