Every summer for the past 15 years I've made stuffed grape leaves in abundance, but why summer? Here in Massachusetts and New Hampshire we have the concord grape which grows wild and out of control. Every. Where. So I decided one day that I am tired of paying $5 for brined leaves when I can just pick my own! So I did just that. I always pick them from the same spot at my mother's house in NH. Out back way behind the pool where nothing but wild life roam. I know that my leaves are organic as no one planted the vines and no one touches them. No fertilizer, no pesticides....nothing.
So, I spray my legs with bug spray as there are a lot of ticks and then I find the best and most perfectly shaped leaves I can find. I usually end up with about 100. If having a party and you know everyone loves these, you could easily collect a couple hundred leaves from one spot.
Next, you have to wash them. They are wild. There are birds, insects and other strange things flying around. Wash each leaf in a bucket of water. It's refreshing to do on a hot day. I just dip them in and very lightly scrub, and then add to the pile. To the pile, I add more water, salt and lemon juice to help kill anything else and preserve the leaves. They keep very well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but they will change color from bright green to dull brownish green. THIS IS OK!
The next part is difficult, trying to find that perfect recipe. Well, here is what I do, and everyone is different. I use beef and ground turkey or chicken, mixed. I use a little bit of rice, fresh lemon juice and a little mint or dill, chopped and of course, salt.
1 lb of turkey and beef
1/2 cup rice
juice of one lemon
extra lemons, sliced
1 tbsp chopped dill or mint (or both?!)
Mix everything together except for the lemon slices. Lay out a perfect leaf and be sure to cut off the tough stem and as much of the middle vein as possible. The rolling might seem daunting at first, but it really is quite easy, just a little time consuming so get a prep space in front of the tv ready.
1. With the dark side down, add about a spoonful of mixture at the bottom where you cut.
2. Roll the part closest to you over the mixture.
3. Fold inthe sides and quickly roll so they stay tight.
4. Keep rolling and folding the sides in until you have a tightly rolled grape leaf.