I use Verjuice in many different ways and have found that it works just as well in sweet desserts as in savoury foods. Put simply Verjuice is the unfermented juice of pressed unripe/sour grapes although other sour fruits such as crab apples have been used throughout history. While Verjuice is naturally acidic it does have a slightly sweet undertone with a distinctive aromatic scent.
The earliest records of Verjuice have been seen in Roman recipes that can date back as far as 71 AD. Evidence suggests that Verjuice was widely used throughout the Roman Empire and was heavily used in the Dijon area as an ingredient in mustard production.
First references of Verjuice use appear in Western Europe in the Middle Ages with the earliest written mention in British literature around 1302. Verjuice was primarily produced by monks and was used at that time to create sauces or as a glaze over meats for its sour tang. Verjuice seemed to hit its peak in Great Britain during the Tudor period. As such, many old recipes from that period can now be found with Verjuice as one of its primary ingredients.
Due to its climate, France was the perfect place to grow the grapes needed for Verjuice production. This led to Verjuice becoming a household staple being used in place of lemon juice for salad dressings, desserts, stews, soups, marinades and sauces or simply as a seasoning in its own right. Verjuice was even thought to have medicinal properties at one point, and was mixed with olive oil and used to treat colds.
By end of the eighteenth century Verjuice had dropped out of favour across Europe as fresh lemons become much more accessible and significantly less expensive.
Verjuice can be used in nearly all recipes where vinegars, lemon juice or wine are added. It works excellently with herbs such as basil and mint. In many of my recipes, I use it to make sauces and salad dressings. Due to its softer flavour, Verjuice is definitely a great complement to any lighter vegetable flavours.
One of my main uses for Verjuice over the years has been not only for marinating red meat, chicken or game but also with fruit such as cucumber and tomatoes. Verjuice also works in deglazing meat dishes or vegetables and can be reduced to leave a sticky and sweet reduction in a pan that can be used in creating stews, casseroles or sauces. The versatility of Verjuice means it can even be mixed with fruit in cocktails, jellies and other types of drinks.
I love to use Verjuice in buttery and rich sauces like pasta sauces and hollandaise sauces. Try splashing Verjuice into your next stir-fry, or cook it down for preserving fruit in a sweet syrup or pickling juice. Verjuice can be used to create amazing desserts that will impress all your guests such as a puddings, sorbets or baked custard.
Verjuice is truly a versatile ingredient that deserves to reclaim its place in our kitchens. I am sure you will agree that using Verjuice for cooking in your home and bringing its distinctive flavour to your dishes could not be any easier.
Preliminary research has suggested that consuming Verjuice regularly can lower blood pressure and hypertension. Studies have also taken place regarding the ability of Verjuice to lower cholesterol in the blood.
When hosting a dinner party not all guests will want to drink cocktails with alcohol, perhaps they are driving or have a medical condition. Verjuice is perfect for using in non-alcoholic cocktails. In a tall glass mix 30ml/1fl.oz of Verjuice with ice, add one slice of orange, one slice of cucumber, a sliced strawberry and top up with sparkling water. Serve with a sprig of mint and add a teaspoon of icing sugar if you like things a little sweeter. Thirst quenching, delicious and suitable for everyone!