A Cumbrian winery
Wines » Verjuice
Verjuice (verjus) is the juice of unripe grapes that have been thinned from a vine in order to concentrate the flavours in the remaining bunches which are harvested later for wine making. It was a popular condiment in Medieval Europe, although in England, in the absence of grapes, crab apple juice was traditionally used as an acidulant. The use of verjuice almost died out when lemon juice became easily obtainable. However, verjuice is now seeing something of a renaissance amonst celebrity chefs who require milder and smoother alternatives to lemon juice and vinegar.
Verjuice is a flavour enhancer and is used to add richness and balance in cooking. As it is not as strong as other acidulants there is less chance of it masking flavours and, used correctly, it will pleasantly enhance taste.
Verjuice can be used for preparing dressings of various sorts, for marinading meat, for deglazing and for reductions of meat juices. It can be used in cake making and in desserts. With the move to more healthy cooking, verjuice can be considered a natural alternative to the stronger acids commonly used.
The following table shows how crab apple verjuice compares with other acidulants and normal wine. Although different fruits contain different natural acids, they are similar in behaviour. However, in the table below, the strength of the acid is expressed in parts per thousand equivalent of sulphuric acid, although this is definitely not found in the fruit!
Crab Apple Verjuice properties
Wine Grape Crab apple Lemon
verjuice verjuice juice
Fruit acid tartaric malic citric
Acidity* 3 - 4.5 10 20 40
Sugar (g/l) 0 (dry) - 150 115 85
*ppt equivalent sulphuric acid
It is clear that crab apple juice is half the acidity of lemon juice, but is much sweeter. It is far more drinkable than lemon juice. It is the preferred ingredient where a hint of apple is perhaps sought after.
We would like to thank Justin Woods, the Executive Chef of the Best Western Castle Green Hotel in Kendal, for this recipe.
1kg/2.2lbs fresh mussels
115g/4oz unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
175 ml High Cup Wines crab apple verjus
50 ml dry white wine
1 bay leaf
large handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1. Prepare the mussels: pull away the hair-like strands around the shell and scrub with a stiff brush under cold running water.
2. Heat 50g/2oz of the unsalted butter in a large saucepan. When hot and foaming, add the garlic, shallots, verjus, wine and bay leaf. Cook over medium heat until the shallots are soft and translucent.
3. Bring the shallots and verjus mixture to the boil. Add the mussels, cover the saucepan, gently shake the pan and cook over a high heat for 2 - 3 minutes, until the mussels open. Discard any mussels that remain closed after cooking or are shrivelled.
4. Strain the mussels over a large saucepan using a colander and set aside. Place the mussels into a large bowl. Retain the mussel liquor in the pan and return to the heat. Add parsley and remaining butter and bring to the boil.
5. Pour the mixture over the mussels and serve immediately with plenty of crusty French bread.