Papou’s Pickled Grape Vine Shoots

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Stories of my ancestors were usually related by my mother or one of her sisters. Stories kept my family connected with my mother’s side of the family who mostly still live back in Greece. My mom would paint stories of how my grandmother was like, how my grandfather was like, how aunts and uncles were like.

I would always ask my mother to tell me another story about my grandfather (her father). Papou (grandfather) Konstantinos (Kosta) was a sturdy man with a bit of a belly, he danced with panache, raised five children and sheltered grandparents and fed other hungry relatives during WWII and Greece’s ensuing civil war.

My mother’s maiden name was Kapetanopoulos (Kapetanopoulou feminine form) and the surname was adapted from a village nickname (paratsouklio) given to a string of strong men that were pillars of the community, leaders, Captains! My Papou Kosta had a general store in the village of Agios Panteleimon in the Prefecture of Florina, near Amynteo – wine growing country.My Papou Kostas with his five children (and daughter-in-law)

My Papou, his father and grandfather would make wine from the local Xinomavro (sour-grape) varietal which is a hard grape to make wine from. The wild nature of the Xinomavro is tamed by few. My Papou would make wine for home use and to sell at the general store. He earn awards for his wine, a talent passed on to him from his father and grandfather.

I am not going to get into winemaking is this post but I must confess my love of good wine, especially Greek wine and the by-products of making wine. In countries like Greece, grapes offer so much life and the spin-offs are endless: grape must used to make a grape molasses (petimezi), sour grape juice (agourida) used as an acid when vinegar or citrus wasn’t available, wine vinegar, grape leaves picked at Spring time and preserved in jars to make Dolmades through the year and today’s easy preserve – pickled wild grape shoots.

Grape shoots are best picked in Spring when the vines are still growing, the leaves are tender (for dolmades) and the obviously the shoots will be tender as well. I remember my mom telling about how my Papou would pick these shoots, toss them in salt then wine vinegar and finally jar them with oil to be preserved for future use when the Greek pastime of taking it slow, taking in a Tsipouro (home brewed distillate) with some meze would spontaneously occur with the arrival of house guests.

My Papou would squeeze the excess liquid leeched out by the salt then soak the grape vine shoots in vinegar and once again squeeze out excess liquid. I could picture his strong forearms bulging as his squeezed handfuls of grape vine shoots into the basin. Just yesterday I did the very same thing my Papou did with grape vine shoots. I am going to pour a shot of Tsispouro (with anise), drop and ice cube in it and watch it transform into a cloudy concoction. I’ll open a jar of pickled grape vine shoots, slice some bread and cheese and open-up some family photo albums.

Pickled Wild Grape Vine Shoots 

  • (makes 2 Mason jars)
  • approx. 1 grocery bag full of wild grape vine shoots (best picked in May/June)
  • approx. 3/4 cup coarse sea salt
  • red wine or cider vinegar
  • olive oil & sunflower oil (50/50 mix)


  • Rinse all your vine shoots and place in a bowl, add the salt and toss well. Allow to steep for 4 hours.
  • Squeeze excess liquid in batches with your hands and place in another bowl with enough vinegar to just cover the vegetables and allow to steep for 3-4 hours…depending how tart you would like them. Taste after 3 hours and judge by your taste, leaving in the vinegar if you like your vine shoots to be more tart.
  • Once again, squeeze your vine shoots with your hands, place in jars with a combo of olive/sunflower oil. Seal with lids and place in fridge. Keeps well for 6 weeks
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