ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Labor of Love: Making Stuffed Grape Leaves

Updated on September 2, 2018
Sallie Mullinger profile image

Sallie is a retired mother and grandmother who has written short stories for most of her life. Her stories are from her heart to yours.

Stuffed grape leaves are delilcious. If you have never had them, please try them and try to find someone or a restaurant where they are made with meat.
Stuffed grape leaves are delilcious. If you have never had them, please try them and try to find someone or a restaurant where they are made with meat.

Zatar is an aromatic spice blend which combines toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, dried marjoram, and sumac.

When you open you mouth to try new and different things, you often find that you are pleasantly surprised.

These are a true labor of love and I dont make them very often, mostly because they are labor intensive and the biggest reason is because when I make them, I need to make enough to feed several armies! My own family will eat them once and then again for leftovers. But, friends over the years who have discovered them will often ask if I am making grape leaves. How can I say no? They are usually served at our annual 4th of July party.

Stuffed grape leaves, or if you are Greek they are called dolmas, are quintessential in Arabic cooking. And if you go to a restaurant or deli where they are on the menu, you owe it to yourself to try them.

They have been somewhat Americanized, more for convenience and cost effectiveness than anything else, by leaving meat out of the stuffing. In my opinion, that's a shame. As a little girl, I learned to eat these made the original, time honored, way my family made them. With lamb or mutton meat, lots of Arabic spices (cumin, mint, zatar) rice and lemon. Lamb is very expensive and mutton is almost never available, so many Lebanese cooks have given into using ground beef to make them. I have no issue with that and for those who have never tasted them prepared with lamb, you wouldn't know what you were missing.

However, just stuffing them with rice and seasonings is somewhat like eating pasta without sauce! So while I am fine with exchanging lamb for ground beef, I do draw a line on grape leaves made without any meat. I have included a recipe at the bottom of my story but for the personal touch I will give my reader's my personal recipe:

1-jar of grape leaves soaked in brine, which need to be drained before stuffing
1-lb. of lean ground meat, uncooked
2-cups uncooked white rice

Assorted Middle Eastern seasonings such as Zatar, Mint, Cumin. Other recipes call for cinnamon but our family never used it. Note: Mint and cumin are easily available but in order to find Zatar you might need to check out a Middle Eastern grocer in your area or Amazon since they have almost anything these days.

Use less than a teaspoon each of these spices as they are potent. Salt and a bit of pepper are also added to the stuffing mix.

Lemon, lemon and more lemon and fresh always! Once I have combined the ground meat and rice and spices, the juice of two good sized lemons is needed to mix into the meat and rice mixture. The lemon gives the grape leaves a bright, tangy very unique flavor when accompanied by the earthiness of the grape leaves.

Once you have your stuffing made, you lay each grape leaf out flat and beginning at the core, or bottom, place a healthy teaspoonful (depending on how large your leaf is) and then begin tucking the sides inward and rolling upward. This is no different than the process used when you make cabbage rolls. And in fact, I find grape leaves much easier to work with than cabbage when doing the rolling.

I use a large Dutch Oven which has been lined with more grape leaves on the bottom of the pot. Then I drizzle olive oil over the flat grape leaves and I begin stacking the stuffed leaves into the pan. Once all are nestled into their places, I drizzle more olive oil (personal preference on whether to use virgin or just plain olive oil. I was raised on regular olive oil and that is what I prefer now as it is less bitter tasting). Next is, of course, more lemon juice! As I stated, I simply cannot say enough about how much lemon enhances the flavor of this wonderful Lebanese dish.

Finally, you need some sort of liquid in order for the rice and meat to cook properly. Most cooks will use plain tap water. However, my Dhati combined water and chicken broth and that is exactly how I make mine. The chicken broth is subtle in the final product, but I do think it adds more to the dish than just plain water. Place a plate firmly over the top of the stuffed leaves in order to keep them in place, cover and cook on low heat for approximately an hour. When finished cooking, the grape leaves have a beautiful glossy sheen thanks to the olive oil and the aroma from the combination of meat, spices, olive oil and lemon makes mouth's water.

Personal Tip: I always use cooking gloves when making grape leaves. The salty brine from the grape leaves pulls moisture from your hands and dries them out.

When I make them I remember my Dhati, which is grandmother in Arabic, and my aunts and Mom and all the women who came before me in whose kitchens I learned the ways of the people whom I originated from. It is in re-creating their dishes that I honor the hard working people of my past.


Food is about tradition and traditions are the ties that bind us to our pasts and those who came before us with their recipes, their seasonings, and their love.


My mouth drools when I look at pictures of grape leaves. They are a great combination of savory with a nice touch of lemony tartness.
My mouth drools when I look at pictures of grape leaves. They are a great combination of savory with a nice touch of lemony tartness.

Grape Leaves

My personal favorite brand of grape leaves
My personal favorite brand of grape leaves

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)