Verjuice – Alison McKee
Verjuice, the juice of unripe grapes, was first produced in New Zealand in 1997 and is now produced in most winemaking regions prior to the annual harvest. Unlike wine Verjuice is not fermented and therefore contains no alcohol. It must be refrigerated after opening.
Usually produced from specially grown unripe grapes Verjuice can also be made from crabapples, sorrel, gooseberries, or any other sour item according to the season. It has a complex taste.There is the intense fruity flavour we associate with wine but with a slight medicinal undertone and a bite. Although it is acidic, verjuice is not as intense as vinegar. Because of these in between qualities – not quite wine, not quite vinegar – verjuice is an intriguing substitute for both of these staples. It works particularly well when the oil or butter in a dish needs to be balanced with a strong flavour that has a delicate edge.
Verjuice tends to be associated with ancient European cookery however it is still common today in Middle Eastern recipes, particularly Iranian dishes. In many ancient cookery books verjuice appears as verious, v9ions, v9ious, v-ions, v9iaws, vergeous and veriows. In Italian cookery verjuice is described as agresto, agresta – meaning wild, pertaining to the fields. Early Roman recipes include the addition of beaten egg yolks, spices- such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves and saffron, – and verjuice. By the early 19th century Verjuice began to lose favour, along with the heavy use of spices as fresh natural flavours became prized.
The revival of Verjuice in modern cookery is largely due to the efforts of researcher Barbara Santich and of course Australian Maggie Beer. Verjuice has an affinity with duck, chicken, fish and makes a fantastic dressing – remember to alter your oil to Verjuice ration as Verjuice is not as acidic as vinegar. A squeeze of lemon juice also adds to the lemony tartness of the Verjuice. Try freezing Verjuice, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, as granita or if you are more adventurous freeze Verjuice chilli dressing and shard onto fresh oysters still on the shell.
For more information on Verjuice refer to Maggie Beer’s comprehensive book Cooking with Verjuice.
Recipes using verjuice on foodlovers include
poached pears in verjuice
sticky fruit with verjuice
salad of baby spinach leaves, chicken livers and oven dried grapes
verjuice and walnut oil vinaigrette
walnut and almond pesto
Foodlovers recommends you try verjuice from thevineco, made in Hawkes Bay by Alison & Dave McKee