It’s been hot and muggy but I’m cooking–because I’ve fallen in love with a new ingredient that I’d heard about, but finally tried: Verjus. Produced by my neighbor and friend Jim Neal–a true renaissance man–this is fresh juice of green wine grapes (i.e., not yet ripe), harvested early, rich with natural acids. We’re talking way early –earlier than I pick for rosé. Like July. Earthy, snappy, somewhere between wine and vinegar, this stuff is a pantry essential… what rock have I been hiding under? (Howell Mountain?)
It’s non-alcoholic, and not as assertive as vinegar or straight lemon juice. It’s not SWEET, like commercial grape juice. The Verjus Blanc has a grassy, strawlike character along with lively green-fruit freshness.
Just playing around with it, I marinated a Kurabota pork rib chop, and braised some kale with another splash (and a few red chiles). Served with my abundantly-available Sunnyside red-skinned peaches roasted ‘atop the chop’ and finished with balsamic vinegar mixed with honey and olive oil –gift from another kind neighbor. Fun. The night before I combined the verjus blanc with my peppery Talcott Olive Oil (another recent discovery, outstanding cool-climate olive oil from Carneros) on a quinoa & edamame salad, with arugula, feta & toasted pine nuts and of course chopped up peaches. Perfect on a hot weeknight with a glass of crisp rosé.
I can’t say enough about this stuff. The Fusion Verjus Blanc is lemony, but not sour. It’s a complex flavor. Like this yummy organic pork chop–and my wine–to my taste the verjus walks the right balance of earth and fruit.
According to the European tradition, says Jim’s website, cooking with verjus lifts your dish to harmonize with wine. A lynchpin ingredient. No surprise then that it was produced here by a Napa chef turned winemaker.
He has recipes and history of verjus on his website: http://www.verjus.com/recipes.html