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Verjuice is included in the wine section, but it is essentially closer to vinegar. Verjuice is an essential ingredient of the medieval cooking, we have to look at its composition, its use and its benefits.
History of Verjuice
Verjuice, as its name suggests, is a green juice, more or less acidic, depending on its components. One could make verjuice from grapes, apples or pears acids, as well as berries, from citrus or pomegranate in countries that allow it. It is still prepared mainly from grapes, picked before maturity, or acids by their variety. As we did not stop the fermentation of the natural product, we can add a little salt if we wanted to keep it for several months.
“The most common way to make verjuice in this country is to gather the clusters of grapes from vines verdes, or not yet ripe grapes found after harvest done, then step on them, and [to] express [ juice] in press, like ripe grapes … Put … Such clusters of juice and salt in barrels, incontinent after one has thrown all its dross by boiling, as the wort. “(Charles Estienne and Jean Liébault, Agriculture and Rustic, 1572, article by Jean Louis Flandrin).
A recipe for sorrel verjuice Ménagier taken from Paris:
Grind well the sorrel without stems and dilute it in old verjuice white, do not filter it but it’s important that it is well crushed.
This verjuice can also be done with a mixture of parsley and sorrel or wheat leaf or vine with buds.
Verjuice is generally consumed fairly quickly and was replaced in winter by vinegar. Verjuice was more subtle, less acidic than vinegar and used in the composition of the finest dishes (poultry etc …). The tastebuds of French for flavours acids was very pronounced in the 14th century, but over the centuries it has faded.
The Viandier Taillevent uses verjuice in the composition of more than 40% of recipes, against 13% in a collection of recipes from the 17th century (The French Chef), with a more soft citrus-based acid.
Verjuice, prized for its taste, was also given some medicinal reputation. It was a product called “cold”, supposed to calm the stomach pain (!), unlike spices (to which it is often associated) who were deemed “hot”. * According to Jean Louis Flandrin, flavors acids were supposed to “open the lines of the body to digested food.”
In the Middle Ages, verjuice was used throughout Europe. Called “Agresta” in Latin (Liber de Coquina and Tractatus de modo) “agresto” in Italian (Maestro Martino), “agraz” in German (Ein Buch von guter spise), “AGRAS” in Catalan (Free of Sent Sovi ), “verjons” in English (as of cury) it is also found in the Middle East, the “gur” in Persian, the “hisrim” in Arabic).
It went through the ages, and it can be found today in some grocery stores, on the Internet …. It copes well with duck, foie gras, salads and other dishes, like Perigord countryside. For example, we can use it in a recipe for onion jam (ideal accompaniment to foie gras) less acid and more fragrant than the traditional recipe with vinegar.