Verjuice, if you’re in Australia (and by extension New Zealand), is synonymous with Maggie Beer, the Australian celebrity cook who first commercialised it in the 80s. Before that, the fermented grape juice had fallen out of popular use, despite having a history that stretches back to ancient times.
The tart juice is made from grapes, but it is not fermented, and must be refrigerated after opening. It adds acidity to cooking without dominating or detracting from other flavours, and can be used broadly for deglazing pans, making delicate salad dressings, adding to spritzers and cocktails, or incorporating into braises.
Next time you’re roasting a batch of beetroot or pumpkin, once everything is caramelised and nearly ready, slosh some verjuice across the veggies and return to the oven. The liquid will bubble up and reduce to a syrup. Serve this with some baby spinach (and feta, if you eat it) and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil for a delicious warm salad.
For a quick salad dressing, combine 50ml walnut oil, 30ml verjuice and the juice of one lemon, and whisk. Serve over crunchy lettuce leaves (such as buttercrunch, cos and radicchio) with roasted walnuts, sliced pear and chopped fresh chives.
Verjuice is not particularly expensive at around $10–$15 per bottle, and it will last in the fridge for months. Pick up a bottle, and you’ll find it becomes a regular ingredient in your cooking repertoire, along with good oils and vinegars.
This originally appeared in Vegetarian Living NZ, which is NZ Vegetarian Society’s seasonal magazine.