Most Greek women use fresh or home frozen grape leaves and this makes all the difference. During our spring and early summer Keartisanal cooking classes we pick them from the garden. This is one of the very first dishes we cooked together with our guests when we started our programs on Kea and it is still one of our guests’ favorite; much like all over the Eastern Mediterranean, this is often prepared by a group of family and friends, as it is somewhat time consuming.
The vine leaves toughen as the days get hotter, though, so later in the summer we use our home-frozen ones which work equally well. If you can get hold of even a few fresh grape leaves, use them as flavoring, placing them between the dolmades. Fresh leaves need to be blanched for about 3-5 minutes, while frozen tender leaves can be used directly after thawing, or need to be blanched just for a few seconds.
Make the dolmades one or two days in advance, let them cool in the pot, and then store in the fridge. They taste better the next day.
To serve 8-10 as an appetizer