Verjus is the pressed juice that comes from unripe fruits, but in the culinary sense, verjus is almost always made from the juice of unripe grapes. Taste-wise, verjus has a much gentler taste than vinegar and still retains a little bit of the sweetness from the original fruit. Since verjus isn’t fermented, it is a lot less acidic than vinegar. Verjus was widely used in cooking a long time ago but has fallen in popularity because of the introduction of flavored vinegar and the ready availability of cooking wines. Verjus is slowly beginning to return to the mainstream due to its mildness and the way it provides the tang of vinegar without interfering with the taste of the paired wine.
- Verjus was originally called acresta in ancient Rome, meaning “acrid.”
- Verjus is usually made from unripe grapes that were “thinned” out of the crop to make of the rest of the fruits develop fuller.
- There are two main types of verjus, red verjus, which is made from red grapes and white verjus, which is made from white grapes.
- Verjus is considered a summer condiment since it is a fresh-pressed juice and it has a short shelf life due to it being unfermented.
Verjus Buying Guide
Much like vinegar and wine, every type of verjus will have its own unique taste. The specific taste of each verjus will depend heavily on the area where the grapes are grown. But as a general rule, the two general types of verjus will have tastes as distinct as their colors.
- Red Verjus – This is made from red grapes. Depending on the type of grape used, this can be floral and gentle, all the way up to rich and hearty. Much like the wines made from the source grapes.
- White Verjus – This is made from white grapes or grapes that are used to make white wine. The flavor profile is much like the wine it makes, only milder. The taste can be described as light and tangy.
Since verjus is essentially a fresh press, it’s hard to find them mass-produced and on supermarket shelves. Your best bet is to go to specialty gourmet shops or direct to the producer.
Verjus Production & Farming in Texas
Since there are about 400 or so wineries in Texas, it’s a good bet that you can find freshly made verjus during the early grape season. Verjus is slowly becoming the condiment of choice when it comes to salad dressings so more and more wineries are making verjus available. Aside from wineries, Texas is also home to a lot of wild grapes so you can also find verjus made from mustang grapes and other wild grapes in farmers’ markets from producers that specialize in harvesting these grapes.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Since verjus is more perishable than vinegar, there will be some commercial producers that add some sort of preservative to their product to survive the rigors of transport and the length of time the product stays on the shelves.
Another reason why some producers add additives to their verjus is to prevent it from turning into vinegar.
The preservative/additive of choice being added to verjus is Sulphur dioxide. This prevents the verjus from fermenting further or turning into vinegar. Sulfur dioxide is generally regarded as safe but has been said to cause mild stomach aches to people who are sensitive to the compound.
Verjus, much like wine and vinegar, is stored in bottles. One of the reasons for this is also since verjus is usually produced by wine producers, they would have the bottles needed for bottling the product.
Verjus is best used to prepare salad dressing. The mild acidity of the verjus makes it appealing for a lot of people who prefer their dressings to be on the milder side. Red verjus is best for strong-tasting vegetables like arugula while white verjus is better for milder lettuce like the butterhead.
Verjus can also be used to marinate meats and create sauces. As a rule of thumb, pair with meats just like you would wine. Marinate red meats with red verjus and use white verjus to make sauces for fish, chicken, or other white meat.
Store verjus in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. Verjus will keep for about a month or two before it will start to turn into vinegar.
Make your own wild grape verjus:
If you live near an area where wild grapes grow, then you can easily make your own verjus. Just make sure to wear the right protective gear when picking them.
Unripe Wild Grapes (at least a bucket to make it worthwhile)
Make sure you have gloves or other protective equipment as wild grapes can be quite acidic. Take the grapes and remove all of the fruit from the stem.
If you have a slow juicer, use it to separate the juice from the fruit. If you don’t, squeeze the juice with your hands and strain the resulting juice with a fine strainer to separate the seeds, skin, and pulp.
Bottle and refrigerate.
Note: Verjus made from wild grapes can be extremely tart and acidic so be sure to use it in small amounts.