Verjuice is a wonderful addition to any kitchen. Used mainly in French and Middle Eastern cuisines, verjuice adds a refreshing tartness without the bitterness that can be found in citrus juice or vinegar. It has a place in anyones kitchen. Verjuice can even be used to make a thirst quenching drink.
Verjuice is typically made from unripe grapes or crabapples. We are going to use sumac berries, which will give a beautiful red juice that can be used wherever a touch of acid is needed, whether to make vinegrettes, or deglazing pans, you will find dozens of uses for your verjuice.
In the interest of full disclosure, this is rougejuice. (verjuice translates to green juice, while rouge juice translates to red juice.
Step 1: Collect Sumac Berries and Soak Them
Warning: Do not eat any wild edibles unless you are sure of their identity.
Sumac is a fairly common plant thoughtout much of the eastern and midwestern U.S. It is a shrubby tree and easily identifies by its red berries in clusters above the foliage. These fruit clusters are what we are after to make our verjuice.
Don't be too worried about poison sumac, for while they share a name, poison sumac has white berries, not the red ones of staghorn or smooth sumac. Always positively identify wild foods, but sumac is one of the easier ones to identify.
You want to collect the clusters after a long dry period, as rain can wash off the acid that we are after. Collect several bunches, leaving the large stems behind. A few small stems are not going to hurt anything.
Place your berries in a pot of lukewarm water. Water that is hot will absorb too much tannin which makes it astringent (like overbrewed tea), while cold water takes a lot longer to collect the acid off of the berries.
Rub the berries between your fingers or stir vigorously. Let them steep in the water for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain them through a colander or sieve, and collect the water.
Step 2: Strain Your Berries Out
Collect the red water that drains off, and you have your verjuice. The lovely red color is all natural, and you will find it refreshingly tart. Refrigerate it if you are not going to use it immediately, or freeze it in an ice cube tray for longer storage.
Use this in any way that you would otherwise use vinegar or lemon juice. A dash on fish is better than a squeeze of lemon. Pour a little into a pan after sauteing chicken, and you can make a delicious quick sauce.
Or add simple syrup and soda water, or sugar and regular water and you have a thirst quencher that is high in vitamin C.
So go wild, you have a brand new ingredient to play with. We will be posting new recipes to use the verjuice soon.
Enjoy and live a hands on life.