Monday, May 25
1. the tart, fresh, non-fermented juice of unripe wine grapes, crab apples or other unripe fruit. From the French, vert (green) + jus (juice); sometimes called verjuice.
Thats what my Larousse told me. Fantastic, coz crabapples have been weighing on my mind and stressing me out! Since my visit to Olive and Popeyes and coming home with trays of glorious figs and a huge bucket of crabs, Ive been wondering what to do with them. There's not a huge amount to do with such a tart fruit. I've done the crab jelly and we've still got monster loads of paste from the quince harvest... but we are running out of our home made chardonnay verjus. Thats always the deciding factor for me: will I use the end product??? Its all very well and good to make heaps of stuff, but...
So when i discovered that from medieval times, crabapples have been used for making verjus, well i was mighty happy to have found a worthy use for the 10 odd kgs of crabs that have been sitting in the pantry just a little too long and hoping not to end up as compost fodder.
Verjus is a useful kitchen liquid, its much less acidic than vinegar or lemon juice and has a sweetness that adds a mellowness to savoury dishes and desserts. I use it in vinigarettes, to deglaze a saute pan; usually from duck and its a staple in risotto. Ive never used it as a drink mixer but apparently if you just add campari and soda... It keeps forever and unlike vinegar and lemon juice can be used alongside wine in cooking.
The process of making verjus is similar to winemaking -- pick grapes(crabs), crush, press, rack, and bottle. But instead of being stretched out over the course of 12-18 months, since verjus does not need color extraction, fermentation, or barrel aging, the production is straightforward. And, unlike vinegar, which has grape juice or wine acidulated by an introduced culture, verjuice is simply crushed, unripe fruit juice. The grapes used to make verjus are the grapes which have been removed when they are just beginning to ripen in order to strengthen grape vines and allow them to produce full flavored fruit.
But i had crabs, so here's a recipe for Crabapple Verjus.
10 kgs of crabs, washed and with majority of stems removed. Stems can be kept on but you have to be careful not to press too much as they will change the taste of the final product. Additionally if you use a food processor to make a mash then they will have to be removed.
Quickly blanch crabs in boiling water to make pressing easier (stems are more easily removed after blanching)
Press crabs in a wine press if you have one. If you dont have a press then you need to use a food processor and reduce the crabs in batches until a fine pulp is reached. Strain the mash or pressed juice into a bowl with a lip using a muslin/cheesecloth and or a fine sieve and paper/muslin.
Pour juice into sterilised bottles, adding 10% of grappa/vodka of the storage bottles volume, to the mix. I really didnt want to use potassium sorbate to stabilize the juice and prevent fermentation so i opted for the addition of 10% alcohol instead (Maggie says I can!)
If you can ensure the sterility of the containers and the juicing process and know the acidity and sugar levels of your juice then no preservatives (alcohol or potassium sorbate) will be required. However, the presence of sugars and yeasts in the juice will most likely result in a fermentation of your product. This is ok and you can bottle after this process (generally 2-3 days) but a secondary fermentation may also occour. This is ok too, as you will then have methode champenoise verjus (some verjus in the medieval literature report fermented stuff) but its generally an unferemnted (non-alcoholic) liquor.
This volume of crabs made about 1.5 litres of jus.