Preserving vine leaves or warak inab mouneh

Preserving vine leaves is an age old tradition. Before industrial canning and freezing, most households had a room filled with stored ingredients or mouneh, which in Arabic means the store cupboard.  In the villages neighbours, family and friends got together to share the workload and help with the preparations. They chose the smallest vegetables for pickling, they cut or strung vegetables and fruits and left to dry in the sun covered with thin musslins to keeps the bugs away. They reduced mountains of juices and clarified butter which they kept in jars,  they also fermented cheese and distilled essences and liquor. Therefore mouneh was strictly related to seasons. In spring, vine leaves and the first shoots of wild herbs are collected. A little later the aromas of distilled essences fill the air. In the height of summer vegetables and legumes are left to dry in the sun.  Sun ripened tomatoes are juiced and reduced to a paste signalling that the season is nearing the end; back to school and time for jams, syrups, molasses and cheeses.

Following days of sunny weather, the vine in my garden is swaggered with foliage. I picked medium sized, perfect looking leaves to store into airtight containers and use later to make warak inab or stuffed vine leaves.

The best ones at the top of the stem are lighter in colour with sheen. I also picked them of equal size. And size does matter. The larger leaves are tougher and take longer to cook leaving them undesirably chewy.

Once a suitable amount is gathered wipe clean each leaf with a dry cloth. Cut off the stems and bunch 4 to 6 leaves together. Roll shiny side in and pack solid in a glass, perfectly airtight container which you then keep in a dark cupboard. (I have also seen vine leaves stuffed into plastic bottles.) They should keep for months. Once a jar is opened it is best to use it all up or the leaves will become mouldy.

Before cooking, open the containers unfold the leaves and blanch them in salted boiling water, this will soften them making them easy to fill and roll. 

Gather the leaves

Make little stacks

Place them in a jar

make sure to pack them well


  1. Are you absolutely sure they will last say 2 months this way?

  2. Dear undergroundrestaurant,
    If the vines leaves are very well packed and airtight they should last for months. I still have some from last season. Try a small batch for yourself. AIRTIGHT is the key word.
    all the best


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