Along the Grapevine

Dolmas, or Venison Stuffed Grapeleaves


DSC_0121I have already posted recipes for dolmas using leaves from wild grape vines, and really thought I was done. My previous recipes have served me well and I saw no need for any more variations but with a little ground venison at my disposal and a special request to prepare dolmas, I felt compelled to add to my repertoire.  You don’t need to use venison in this recipe – any ground meat will work just as well. The spices are what makes these so good, and by using a generous amount of short-grained rice the texture is light.

I also feel the need to remind readers that grape leaf season is coming to an end, and this is the time to harvest all you will need for the winter months. The weather has been kind to the vines, and if I’m not mistaken the season has been longer this year than usual.

I am sure this recipe could be cooked in an Instant Pot in about half the time, but I opted for the old-fashioned way so I could keep an eye on their progress. However, when cooking these on a stove top, it is useful to line the bottom of a pot with something to protect them from getting scorched. I usually use sliced potatoes, but any root vegetable can be used, and then served alongside the dolmas. This time I lined the pot with corn husks, the same ones I used for making tamales. It also occurred to me that a good thick layer of grape leaves would work and add even more grape leafy flavour.

Venison Dolmas

1/2 cup short grained rice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lb ground meat
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground sumac
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
4 dozen mature grape leaves

Blanche the leaves in boiling water, drain and set aside. Pour boiling water over the rice and allow to sit for 20 minutes, then drain and let cool.
Mix all the ingredients except the leaves together in a bowl. To fill the leaves, place the leaf shiny side down, remove any remaining stem below the leaf. Place about 1 tsp of the mixture at the base of the leaf, fold over once, then wrap the sides inward and continue rolling.
To cook the dolmas, you need to stack them carefully in a pot, close enough together they support each other, but loosely enough they can expand slightly. Pour water or stock until almost covered and place a weight on top to press them down. Bring to a boil, then simmer until almost all the liquid has been absorbed, about 1 hour.


DSC03599Related Posts:Wild Grape Leaves;  Vegetarian Dolmas; Stuffed Fermented Grape Leaves


Author: Hilda

I am a backyard forager who likes to share recipes using the wild edibles of our area.

7 thoughts on “Dolmas, or Venison Stuffed Grapeleaves

  1. I almost missed your recipe Hilda. Recently, I have been interested in Greek food and one thing I want to make is dolmas. I have been collecting recipes and yours looks the best by far 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind compliment. Do let me know if you make them and how they turn out. I can tell you we did enjoy them and I have put away some leaves for winter so I can make them again.


  2. I think I’ll try this with Bison.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have just today discovered your blog, and I am enjoying it (you!) thoroughly. I really appreciate how you describe your processes, your improvisations. This makes both your blog and your recipes wonderfully approachable, but more importantly, useful. I have a Thompson Seedless grape plant I bought at Costco last spring in the hopes of having grape leaves to make pickles with, it didn’t flourish where I put it, and this year I moved it to a sunnier spot (and bigger pot). I live in Northern California, so our weather and seasons are completely different, but the spirit of experimentation can be relevant anywhere. I’ve been combing through your recipes, and now wishing I had my own sumac growing nearby! Oh well, I can’t complain, but I can enjoy your blog. Thanks so much!


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