Here I present an ages-old recipe that dates at least as far back as the turn of the century from family members relocating to the United States from Lebanon. Passed on to my great-grandmother, to my grandfather and then on to my father. You'll notice that some of my leaves are redish in color, a product of harvesting them from Lemberger vines on a vineyard that I work.
Step 1: Gather and Prep the Ingredients
1 Jar Grape Vine Leaves
1 ½ C Uncooked Basmati Rice
¼ C Fresh Mint Leaves
1 ½ T Minced Garlic
1 Small Onion, peeled and quartered
Zest of 2 Lemons
Juice of 4 Lemons
1 Lb Ground Lamb
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Black Pepper, plus ½ tsp
1 T Ground Cumin + 1 T Ground Cumin
1 tsp Coriander + 1 tsp Coriander
8 C Beef Stock
1 ½ tsp Garlic Powder
1 ½ tsp Onion Powder
Carefully remove grape leaves from jar and transfer to a strainer in the sink. Leaves are packed in 2-3 separate bundles, so squeeze one together and carefully slide out. In a medium saucepan, add the rice and 1 ½ C water and bring to a boil. Stir well as it comes to a boil, cover and turn off heat. Let sit for 20 minutes before removing the lid. Combine the mint, minced garlic, onion and lemon zest in a food processor, and pulse well until onion is broken up into ¼” pieces. Transfer to a large bowl with ground lamb, salt, cinnamon, ½ tsp black pepper, 1 T cumin, and rice when cooled enough to handle
Step 2: Set Up Your Work Station
Using your hands, squeeze and fold the mixture until it is mixed well and place in the refrigerator to firm up. In a medium sauce pan, combine the beef stock with juice of 3 lemons, ½ tsp black pepper, 1 T cumin, 1 tsp Coriander, garlic powder and onion powder. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Take two dinner plates to where your grape leaves are and individually go through them. Place a stack of “good” ones that aren’t torn and are full leaves on one plate, shiny side facing down. Place the “bad” ones that are torn and incomplete onto the other plate. For this recipe we’ll need about 75 “good” grape leaves. Lay two layers of the “bad” leaves onto the bottom of a large stock pot. Remove the lamb mixture from the fridge and place your stock pot, lamb mixture and “good” grape leaves within reach.
Lay one grape leaf shiny side down onto a small plate. Scoop 1 heaping Tablespoon of lamb mixture onto the bottom of the leaf (I like to portion out the entire lamb mixture onto a cutting board with a melon baller before I begin rolling to save time). Tightly roll from the bottom of the leaf two turns. Fold in both ends tightly and then finish rolling through. Place the rolled grapeleaf into the stockpot with the seam side down, and pack the additional finished leaves in rows and layers until finished. Place a plate (similar in diameter to the stockpot) on top of the rolled leaves and place as many salad bowls on top of the plate as will fit with the pot lid on. Pour the beef broth around the Grapeleaves, cover the pot and heat to medium-low heat. Cook for 3 hours (or up to 5), strain the liquid and use tongs to retrieve the finished Grapeleaves. Drizzle with remaining lemon juice and serve.