|Gail has a temper tantrum & hacks weeds to relieve stress.|
There is much mention of verjuice in Medieval French cooking, but no mention of how to make the stuff. The Good Wife's Guide, A Medieval Household Book has a bazillion recipes that require it, and even a recipe about how to fake it, but I think they probably just purchased it vs. putting it up themselves. There is a later recipe from 1600's England that uses crab apples, but I chose to ignore that in favor of just assuming that the unripe grapes were simply pressed, fermented for 24-48 hrs (because that's how long they ferment naturally) and then bottled. Because that seems to work. I'm taking a big chance on being wrong here. One thing that the Goodman of Paris does mention is that new verjus is too "new" to be used, and one should mix the old with the new for a good flavor. Other food historians have said that it mellows with age, and I take that to mean it becomes more like grape juice, and no longer has that startling sour tartness.
|The overabundance of unripe grapes in the thing called "the arbor."|
So, basically verjuice is made from unripe white wine grapes that are culled from the vine with the ultimate goal of improving the final grape harvest for wine. But what to do with the waste grapes? No pigs or chickens? Make Verjuice! You can use it anywhere you would normally use apple cider vinegar in cooking, or citrus juice. It is very very sour; like Major Pucker Power! My kid loved the stuff. He likes to bite lemons too, so if that gives you any idea... It has a very pleasant sour flavor though. Used sparingly in recipes it should go well with wine, unlike citrus which can clash (so I'm told). Since I'm not a big alcohol person, you could not prove this by me. But there it is.
|15 lbs of unripe grapes, give or take.|
|Washed grapes into the blender. |
Double check on your quality before you grind things up.
Now, this is obviously not how it was done historically, but impulse projects sometimes require modern concessions. The blender made this project possible.
One colander of grapes, washed & blended was about the right amount to drain in the sieve at a time.
One "how to" suggestion was to not wash the grapes. I had intended to follow this advice in the second batch, but for reasons that will become evident below, washed them anyway (which didn't work as it grew mold anyway).
Pulse or chop the grapes a little, just so they are juicy, not so they are totally liquid. You want some chunks left, but no whole grapes. No seed grain... I hope that is helpful. So blend enough to get the liquid without chopping up the seeds.
|Hint: drain the mush again for more juice. |
It'll all be brown anyway, so don't worry about that.
Hint: cheese cloth can be thrown out, a sieve has to be scrubbed with a brush & takes more water than even a Western NY girl is comfortable using to wash the little bugger.
I also used the Foley Food Mill for the 1st batch, which did come out very green to start, but most of that was sediment which I strained off after.
|food mill mush vs. drained juice|
|Unripe grape mush|
It took a bit of stirring, and I ended up putting the drippings from this through a paper towel to get the final bits & pieces, and still had a lot of residue in the final jars... but, on the other hand, I got an entire jar more juice than I did from the other (molded) batch. So it might be worth doing anyway.
I swear my son cried when I threw this sour mush away vs. putting it in a go-go squeeze packet for him.
|The raw verjuice, fermenting happily.|
I used a hot water bath canning method. Steralize the jars, put them all in a big canner pot & cover with water, heat water as you heat the lids & rings in another pot. Start cooking the juice (one batch at a time) just until it simmers, then keep it hot for 10-15 minutes. Can it by pouring out the water from the jars in the canner, pour in the hot juice, put the hot lids on & sink the jars into the hot water in the canner until they are covered by at least 1" of water. Boil for 15-60 minutes (this will depend on your preferred method of canning, it's not exactly written in stone - I'm guessing). Set finished jars on a towel in a warm place, cover with another towel & let cool overnight. Hopefully everything will seal. All of mine did. I'll post a pic of this in a later edit, but they are all labeled & not showing any signs of mold. I'll put them away in a few days as long as they still look good. It should last for a year unopened, and 6-8 weeks in the fridge after opening. Since you will only use a little in any given recipe, I suggest putting it up in small jars.
|Helping Mommy make Verjuice.|
I almost gave up. Then I remembered that my little helper will be helping me for the next 12 yrs, so I just accepted his help & there it is.
We had a blast & even if there is only one bottle of Baby Toe Jam Verjuice it's a treasure to be savored. Yum. So worth the memory of him smiling up at me with 5 major choking hazards in his little cheeks (I swear I have another gray streak from this project). I was thinking he had spit most of them out, but it later became apparent that he did, in fact, eat a lot of grapes. Many, many grapes. I'm amazed he didn't have a tummy ache.
Ah yes... Jilly helped too.
|All the helpers.|
PS. Raccoons do not eat grapes. They eat cat poo, but not grapes. Go figure.