Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Verjuice At Last?!

For many years I have wondered how medieval recipes could call for verjuice as a year-round pantry staple. The season for immature grapes from which you can get any amount of juice is maybe 3 weeks or so, right about now. Moreover, and far more importantly, once you squeeze them, they begin to oxidize and if you try to keep it any length of time, they inevitably grow mold. This happens in the fridge too. So last week I was at Acquiesce winery in Lodi, and they were thinning the vines and I asked if I could take some cut clusters. Two big shopping bags, nearly enough to fill my huge stockpot. Crushed by hand and left - here's the key - to FERMENT. There's enough sugar in them to maybe get 5-10 percent alcohol. It smells magnificent. And is wonderfully sour. So I am expecting, as often happens with historical cooking experiments, that if you really do exactly what would have been done in the past, it should work. In this case the alcohol should make it shelf stable. In the meantime there are some recipes in the Livre fort excellent de cuysine I simply must try. I should be done with my half of the translation by the end of the week. To be published by Prospect Books.


David Friedman said...

May has a recipe for verjuice from crabs--meaning crab apples. I don't remember it's involving fermentation, but it's been a long time since I made it.

Katherine said...


You may be interested in some of the 16th century German sources I've translated for verjus on my blog: http://jillwheezul.livejournal.com/270075.html

Jeremy said...

I'm looking forward to the book (already ordered it).

Pascal said...

Last year I made some verjus (verjuice) with foraged berries as well. Reading some old French books from the period, unripe berries were also used such as currant or gooseberries and in some case some sour/lemony plant juices (oxalis/sorrels). I have seen done both ways, with fermentation and without fermentation. I liked it without fermentation for the unripe currant berries.

Deana Sidney said...

You know, long ago before I knew much about such things, I made Madeleine Kamman's recipe for verjus that had brandy in it as well as sour green grapes among other things (like honey). It not only kept, it aged magnificently (4 years later it was even better). It is still my favorite verjus, even if it isn't authentic.

I do want to try the crab apple but they are so dry, you would need an apple press to get anything out of them... I think they would burn out my juicer!
Wonderful experiment. I look forward to hearing how it ages.

Ken Albala said...

Katherine, Thanks! I'll look now.

Jeremy, JUST finished it about an hour ago.

Pascal, I've never seem anyone in the past saying to ferment or not. So who knows?

Deana, YES, Madeleine was the first person I ever heard mention it. We're talking about the 80s!

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Katherine again - Ken, the German version of Etienne is a German translation of the French "Le Maison Rustique" and you can read it on google books:


I think it seems that it is fermented, at least in one of the preparations.

August 7, 2013 at 12:34 AM Delete

Ken Albala said...

Katherine, I know Estienne pretty well in Latin, French and Surflet's English version. How did I miss this?? I'll have to look at my notes. I didn't even know there was a German version. THANKS>