As promised, while we finish our repairs, we are going to the source to find the very best of what is going on out there and bring it back to you this fall. Our first trip was this past Monday we headed up to Hickory Creek Farms for their Verjus celebration. Fortunately, it was one of those rare below 90 degree days and only about 90 minutes from Chicago, in other words, the perfect day trip. Indeed it was.
What is verjus you ask? Good question, verjus (translated literally – greenjuice is the very first pressing of grapes during the season). It can also be done with sour fruits such as crab apples. Historically it was used in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, it is also found in Syrian Cuisine. As what you ask? Think vinegar substitute (heck it is really an unfermented vinegar — could certainly be fermented in a a barrel or cask of your choosing). In cooking it can be used when a mild acidity is called for. It is similar to a little citrus juice although the flavor is a bit rounder.
Beyond the obvious uses, our hosts (including Beverly Malen) encouraged us to try Verjus Cocktails from Adam Seger including a fantastically herbaceous Rooibos, Verjus & Rum Punch w/ sour cherries and herbs, a Gin, Verjus & Ginger Beer Cocktail w/ fresh thyme and a Verjus Manhattan w/ Rye. Important to note: all the spirits were from the fantastic newcomer to the local spirits scene, Journeyman. They are located in Three Oaks a very short drive from Chicago and well worth the visit.
After a nice covered trolley tour of the vineyards we returned to a tasty feast of goat, which had been roasted by Chef Leonard of another West Suburban local fav, Marion Street. A feast under the apple tree was accompanied by the wines of Hickory Creek as well as some wines from a Long Island vineyard that may make an appearance on our fall list. The meal finished with a little crushing of the grapes and a verjus sorbetti from Palazzolo’s Gelato. The result was a delicious and refreshing alternative to the more traditional lemon or lime flavors.
So the versatile verjus reminds us that everything old is certainly new again. We have one question for you? Do you verjus? Well if you want to try check out the very brief recipe below and let us know if you have new successes of your own using this interesting acid.
How to Make your own Verjus:
Note/Disclaimer: you need a lot of grapes to attempt this. Figure about a pound and a quater of green wine grapes for one cup of verjus. Try Midland or call a local winery to see if you can acquire… with the very dry summer it may be a more difficult task then usual.
You will need a food mill (wine press is great if you have one), fine strainer, grapes, mason jars to store the juice. First stem the grapes as much as possible, then run through the food mill in batches. Then pour through a fine mesh strainer to catch the rest of fruit (you will still have a little sediment on the bottom). You can strain directly into sterile mason jars or a spouted container useful for mixing cocktails or into a punchbowl for immediate serving. As with most things food related it is best used fresh but will hold for up to 6 mos if you add citric acid and a little sodium metabisulfate. If sulfites disagree with you this is probably not something you want to do.