Greek, Turkish, Arabic, Vietnamese and South Caucasus cuisines all use vines leaves in their dishes. Young white grape leaves usually gathered in bloom are best for cooking. Leaves are softer and juicier in that period of time and have a pleasant sour taste.
Soak the large leaves in cold water for 24 hours before using, or boil them up once. Young leaves stay fresh for few days in the fridge, but again, they need to be washed in hot water before the fridge.
There are few rules of preserving the vine leaves for a long period of time – salting it, canning or freezing. Salted leaves lose their wholesomeness, that's why cooks prefer freezing.
They prepare 200-500 gr. plastic packages stuffed with leaves, which requires deflation only and placing in the freezer. Before using they first unfreeze the leaves in cold water, then in order to restore its flexible structure they rest them in hot water for few minutes.
Another method requires sifting the already scalded leaves, wrapping them in foil and keeping in the freezer.
Apart from the traditional ways of preservation, there are original recipes, like placing your scalded and folded leaves into cans. 1 liter can fit 60 leaves. Then pour 1 teaspoon of mustard powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and 6 or 7 pepper grains into each can. Fill the can with hot water, cover the lid hermetically, and turn the pots upside down for about 24 hours until they cool down.
Some housewives dry the vine leaves on a room temperature and preserve in carton boxes at a dry place. Then they soak the leaves in hot water, boil for 2-3 minutes and rest on a sifter.
Vine leaves are usually used for cooking Dolma. Particularly tender leaves can be added to the sweet pilaf next to the dried fruits and honey. There are also varieties of cheeses ripen in vine leaves.