Verjuice, sometimes spelled verjus, means "green juice," and it's the French term for a fruit juice made from unripe grapes, crab-apples, or sour fruit. It can be used as a lemon juice or vinegar substitute in all dishes where you'd normally use citruses. Popular for centuries in traditional European and Middle Eastern cuisines, verjuice use has seen a comeback thanks to its use in upscale restaurants and mentions from famous chefs.
Origin: Europe, Middle East
Flavor: acidic, but sweeter than lemons
Qualities: yeast-free, unfermented
What Is Verjuice?
Verjuice is an acidic juice made out of pressed unripe grapes, immature crab-apples, or any sour fruit whose juice will have an acidic profile, like gooseberries or unripe plums or oranges. The resulting juice isn't fermented, and it's also yeast-free. Making your own shouldn't be expensive, as it requires only pressed fruit, but store-bought can be excessively costly.
When citruses weren't available year-round in certain parts of the world, verjuice was an important item in the kitchen when an acidic juice was needed. Used primarily as you'd use lemon juice, verjuice can be added to vinaigrettes, fresh oysters, and fishes, or to pans to deglaze the tasty juices and bits left behind after cooking meats. Use verjuice to marinate poultry, or fish for ceviche.
How to Cook With Verjuice
Cooking with verjuice is easy and convenient. Used instead of lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar, verjuice is added to dressings, salads, marinades, soups, or any recipe that requires an acidic note. Because it comes in a bottle, it's easily poured, without the messy squirts of juice flying off of a lemon or lime. Gently tart, verjuice is a wonderful ingredient to add to chunky sauces, dips, desserts, and beverages.
If you want to make your own, use a food mill on the coarsest plate and grind a few pounds of unripe green grapes. Work quickly to avoid oxidation and use gloves to prevent the acid of the fruit from stinging your hands. Squeeze the grape pulp over a sieve and pass the resulting juice through a moist coffee filter. The resulting juice needs to go into a mason jar with citric acid (try 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per five pounds of unripe grapes) and then to the fridge for 1 to 2 days until there's visible sediment at the bottom. Pour the clear liquid, verjuice, into another clean container and keep refrigerated.
What Verjuice Tastes Like
Verjuice is delicate and lightly sour. Acidic but sweeter than lemon juice, verjuice has a milder quality to it compared to the tang of citrus fruit or the astringent character of fruit vinegar.
Add verjuice instead of lime or lemon juice in any and all recipes. Use it in chunky sauces for chips, in creamy dips for pita wraps, in vinaigrettes for salads, or instead of lemon in herby marinades. Verjuice can also be added to cocktails and mocktails were limes or lemons are used.
Where to Buy Verjuice
Verjuice is often expensive and found in upscale supermarkets and specialty shops, but call ahead as not all stores will have it. What few people know is that verjuice, known as husrum (Arabic for "unripe grapes") in Middle Eastern cuisine, is easily found at much lower prices in supermarkets that distribute food and ingredients of Persian, Lebanese, Syrian, and sometimes Israeli origin. Online retailers sell verjuice from many origins at varied price points, but husrum is not as available for online purchase.
If you bought verjuice in a bottle, keep refrigerated after opening it for up to two months. It can also be frozen it in a cube tray; use the individual cubes as needed. Homemade verjuice, with citric acid added in the recommended amounts, should last for many months in the refrigerator.