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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Preserving Grape Leaves

Harvest grape leaves in the spring, while they are still tender and don’t have much bug damage. (Eoban Binder/WFIU)

Canning your own grape leaves is a fun project. You can use them the next time you make dolmas. Grape leaves are best if harvested in the spring, while they are still tender. You can visit a winery and ask to harvest some leaves or you can forage your own wild grape leaves wherever you find them. The wild ones tend to be smaller, but they can still work for most dishes, you just might need to use more than one leaf for your wrapping.

After blanching and shocking the grape leaves, spread them out and stack them before rolling them up. (Eoban Binder/WFIU)

Notes from Kayte on safe canning:
Boiling water bath canning is only safe for high acid foods (all fruits) or for low-acid foods (vegetables) that have been acidified, such as pickles, or salsa with the proper amount of lemon juice or vinegar added. In order to ensure that your low-acid, acidified food has the proper amount of acid to prevent botulism, you need to follow a canning recipe from a trusted source. The only recipes I trust are those developed by land-grant university cooperative extensions such as The University of Georgia. These recipes have all been tested for safety, unlike many recipes you find on blogs or in standard cookbooks.

Grape leaves are a low-acid food. This recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of lemon juice to be added to a pint jar. That sounds like the right amount of acid to make it safe for boiling water bath canning, however, you can’t know for sure unless it has been tested. I could not find grape leaves listed in any of the trusted canning guides, so as far as I know, this recipe has not been tested in a lab.

You could probably safely can grape leaves using instructions for spinach or other greens. Canning spinach or other greens requires pressure canning.

Alternatively, you could use the boiling water bath method as described here, but then just store the jar in the fridge rather than expecting it to be shelf-stable.

You could also blanch, stack and roll the leaves as directed in this recipe, but then freeze them instead of canning them.

Keep in mind that consuming even minuscule amounts of Clostridium Botulinum can cause serious illness and even death. It is not something you can see, smell or taste. Better safe than sorry when it comes to home food preservation!

Preserving Grape Leaves


  • 30 to 50 grape leaves, stems removed
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add enough salt to make it taste like the sea.
  2. Get another large pot of water ready -- this is what you will can the grape leaves in. Remember you will need something to keep the bottom of the pint jars up off the bottom of the pot. I use a vegetable steamer, but a bunch of canning lids (the rings, not the gaskets) works well as a platform, too. Get a large bowl of ice water ready.
  3. Boil the grape leaves for 30 to 45 seconds, then plunge into the ice water to cool. Drain them once the leaves are all cool.
  4. Flatten grape leaves and stack them, 6 leaves to a stack.
  5. Roll each stack into a cigar shape from the side -- not the top or bottom. You will need to fold over the leaf end to fit into the pint jars.
  6. Pack the grape leaves into the jar, making sure you have about 1 inch of head space at the top.
  7. Sprinkle the citric acid into a sterilized pint jar (or add the lemon juice).
  8. Bring the water you used to cook the grape leaves back to a boil and ladle it into the jars. Make sure the grape leaves are covered with the brine.
  9. Wipe the edge of the pint jar with a clean towel and seal the jar with a two part canning lid. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath (or, to be on the safe side, process in a pressure-canner following instructions for canning spinach).
  10. If you do use the boiling water bath method, just store the jar in the fridge rather than expecting it to be shelf stable.

Chef Daniel Orr

Chef Daniel Orr is the owner of FARMbloomington and the author of several cookbooks. He draws from a lifelong curiosity about individual ingredients combined with extensive training in the art of finding food’s true essence and flavor. The result is simple, yet sophisticated; the best of American food tempered by classic European training.

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