Verjuice (or verjus) is acidic juice typically made from unripe grapes or crab apples. It gained popularity in the Middle Ages and was popular throughout the 1700s as a sauce, glaze or pickle. The flavor is milder than vinegar and is good when used in the place of lemon juice in recipes. The name comes from the French "verjus" or "green juice" and both terms are used throughout the 18th century.
This verjuice recipe can be made with crab apples or unripe grapes. Crab apples are much easier to come by in Pennsylvania. The result is an amber colored liquid instead of the "green juice" you would get from grapes but is delicious nonetheless. When I was younger, I was told to pick crab apples when they were black and the crows started to eat them. The farther along your crab apples are, the easier they will be to mash and remove the stems. The recipe says to pick the crab apples in October although many of our trees were finished long before.
-Crab Apples (a pound of crab apples will yield about 1 cup of juice.)
Make sure your bottles are sterilized. Let your crab apples soak in a vinegar water solution to clean them before you remove the stems. You do not have to peel the crab apples. If you have a wine press or juicer, juice the crab apples. (I do not have a wine press or anything similar, so I minced my crab apples in a food processor. I then put the minced crab apples in a cloth and squeezed out the juice by hand.) Bottle your juice and cover with a cloth or cork loosely. Leave room at the top for the juice to ferment. Keep in a dark cupboard.
Verjuice is used both fresh and fermented. Most 18th century recipes note that it is ready to use 2 weeks to a month after it is bottled. Some recipes call for distilling after juicing but it is not necessary.
I was lucky enough to be given some crab apple vinegar by a friend so I've been having fun tasting them both every few days to see how they differ. When I first read about crab apple verjuice I was unsure of how the process differed from making crab apple vinegar. When making vinegar you ferment the skins, fruits and juice together for verjuice it is just the juice. The verjuice also appears darker in color.
Disclaimer: Fermenting, bottling and canning all require safety food procedures. Make sure you are up to date before attempting to make verjuice. As with all historical recipes, try at your own risk.