Verjuice (also called verjus in French which means ‘green juice’) is unfermented grape juice used in cooking to add acidity. You can make it at home from either red or green grapes, if you can find very sour grapes, according to food writer Paula Wolfert in her book The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook. You can also add it to sparkling water to make a non-alcoholic spritzer.
Verjuice replaces vinegar or lemon juice in recipes where you need a gentler form of acidity. It features in Middle-Eastern cooking and in dishes or dressings that are going to be served with a good wine (say at a wine-themed dinner). Because verjuice is made of grapes, it won’t ruin your palate for the wine. It can also be added instead of wine when you are cooking dishes for people who don’t drink alcohol.
How to make verjuice or verjus
1. Find the most acidic sourest seedless red or green grapes that you can, crush them, strain the juice twice.
2. Immediately heat the juice in a saucepan, adding a little cold water. Bring this to the boil to kill off any yeast, take the pan off the heat and leave to cool.
3. Store the cooled juice in a sterilised clean jar or bottle with a lid in the fridge where it lasts a few weeks. You can also freeze it.
Paula Wolfert suggests adding a cup of sparkling water to 1/4 cup of verjuice for a refreshing drink.
– Verjuice is only worth making with sour grapes, the ones that make your face wince when you eat them, as it is this acidity that is valuable in verjuice.
– Verjuice can be used wherever lemon juice or vinegar is prescribed in a recipe, especially Middle-Eastern recipes.
– Because verjuice is made from grapes, it is ideal to use in a dish you are going to eat while drinking a good wine – it won’t ruin your palate for the wine.
When to use verjuice:
– Verjuice has a milder taste than vinegar or lemon juice and its fruity acidity is good in salad dressings and mayonnaise.
– You can add it to the pan after you have cooked meat or chicken to make a quick dressing (it cuts through the fat).
– Use it to replace white wine in a savoury dish (use only a splash and add more if the dish needs it) or add it to the poaching liquid for fruits.
– Use verjuice to reconstitute dried fruit like apricots, cranberries or sultanas or raisins.
– Different grapes produce different tasting verjuice so experiment.
Chicken with Verjuice and Green Peppercorns
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 boneless chicken breasts, flattened between cling film and cut into thin slices
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons of brined green peppercorns (rinsed)
5 tablespoons (75ml) verjuice
1. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Season the chicken breasts with sea salt and black pepepr and cook over medium heat on both sides until golden (about 3-4 minutes – check they are cooked through). Add the green peppercorns and verjuice and cook for a few minutes, until the verjuice reduces and becomes sticky. Serve immediately with a simple green salad.
As verjuice is a replacement for using wine in cooking, you can also make the recipe above using white wine and a splash of lemon juice instead of verjuice.
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