(This column originally appeared in the 2/4 edition of Dan's Papers)
Do you know what verjus is? Probably not, but don’t be embarrassed, not many people do.
Verjus, literally translated as “green juice” and pronounced “vair-ZHOO,” is the fresh, unfermented juice of half-ripe fruit, most often grapes.
Quite common in Old World wine regions, particularly France, this versatile juice has as many culinary uses as there are grapes in a vineyard. Want a bright, fresh wine alternative without the alcohol? Drink verjus. It’s crisp, fruity and refreshing on its own or mixed with sparkling water and fruit slices to create virgin sangria.
Would you rather drink wine? No problem… just use verjus like you would vinegar. It can be used as a poaching liquid for chicken or fish, added to marinades for some acidic zing or make a great ceviche with local bay scallops. You can even make a verjus sorbet.
My favorite, everyday use for verjus is in vinaigrette. Because it doesn’t have all the mouth-puckering acidity of vinegar, you don’t need to use as much oil, leading to lighter, healthier dressing for fresh field greens.
Verjus Vinaigrette (adapted from a Wolffer Estate recipe)
4 T Verjus
1 medium shallot, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
2 T Dijon mustard
1/2 cup canola or other vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup finely snipped chives
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Combine the verjus, shallot, garlic and mustard in a bowl. Add the canola and olive oils in a slow, steady stream, whisking until smooth. Stir in fresh herbs, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss with greens.
Jamesport Vineyards’ verjus ($10) is made entirely from half-ripe Chardonnay grapes. Pale yellow with a definite greenish tint, it’s filled with lime flavors and hints of honeydew melon. Subtle acidity and a gentle sweetness make it perfect for sipping or as a mixer.
Delivering much brighter acidity and lively tartness, the Wolffer Estate bottling ($10) offers lemongrass and light herbal notes that frame refined green apple flavors. Made from Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this is my hands-down choice if I’m using verjus in my cooking.
Try verjus, especially if you’re visiting the vineyards with kids and want them to feel a part of the day!
To order verjus or for more recipes, contact Wolffer Estate at 537-5106 or Jamesport Vineyards at 722-5256.
Lenn Thompson is a contributing writer for Dan’s North Fork. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org