Sour grape juice: The French call it verjus
On Sunday, showing off the Hollywood farmers market to a visiting friend, I was walking extra slowly and noticed a stand selling verjus for the first time. Maybe they've been selling it for years, who knows? But there it was, Mill Road Verjus made from organically grown grapes from the Monahan Family Farm in Paso Robles, in 16-ounce and 32-ounce bottles.
Verjus is basically the juice of unripe wine grapes. Tart and fruity, yet less acidic than vinegar, verjus has been used by cooks in Europe and the Middle East for hundreds of years. It makes a wonderful salad dressing, and also can be used as a marinade or a deglazing liquid.
Until recently, verjus was something you'd see in French cookery books but never have the hope of finding. I remember seeing it listed as an ingredient, but where? In "The Cooking of Southwest France," Paula Wolfert has a recipe for chicken legs with sour grape sauce in the style of the Dordogne. It uses 6 to 7 tablespoons of verjus. In “California Dish: What I saw (and cooked)at the American culinary revolution”, Jeremiah Tower cites “the miracles of verjus in cold soups thickened with almonds” from an 1892 French cookbook called “Le Viandier.”
Anybody have any other ideas for using verjus?
Mill Road Verjus from Monahan Family Farm, 3695 Mill Road, Paso Robles; (805) 238-6965. Prices: 16 oz., $3.75; 32 oz., $6; case, $50. Sold at Hollywood Farmers Market and a few others.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photos: Verjus for sale at farmers market. Credit: S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times.