Verjus is a refreshing sour flavour enhancer that falls between lemon and vinegar in taste. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks (if you use citric acid, it can last for several months, I have read but not tried). Verjus is the juice extracted from unripe grapes, which are typically thinned out during the summer. According to Wikipedia, it was most popular during the Middle Ages when it was mixed with herbs like meadowsweet for a unique flavour. Nowadays, it is primarily used in salad dressings, but in the past, it was used in cooking as a substitute for wine and vinegar.
Green grapes are not particularly juicy, to say the least, so don’t expect large quantities of verjus – but then, a little goes a long way. Remove the stems and crush the grapes in either a meat grinder or food processor. Strain the juice, preferably using a cheesecloth to extract as much liquid as possible, as mentioned before, you won’t get a lot. Bottle the juice and store it in the refrigerator.
Fermented vine leaves
Gather fresh but fairly large vine leaves during summer thinning, rinse them, and place them in a jar, layer by layer. Cover with a 2% salt brine and add a few drops of sauerkraut juice. Seal the jar and leave it at room temperature for 3 days, then store it in the refrigerator. Use these leaves for dolma or as a substitute for nori to wrap around rice.
Grape capers and a bit about shiso
In 2020 we got a lot of shiso, resulting in 3×3 liter jars: Jar 1: Shiso leaves covered with apple cider vinegar Jar 2: Shiso leaves layered with sugar Jar 3: Shiso leaves layered with salt
After a couple of months, the sugar syrup and vinegar were combined to create a delightful shiso drink concentrate. Diluted with sparkling water, it is delicious! The salted shiso became the base for these tasty caper grapes. I layered green (unripe) grapes and salted shiso leaves, placed a boiled and cooled stone on top, and let the jar sit at room temperature for 5 months. Then, I poured off the liquid (which I saved in a bottle for sallad dressing) and let them dry slightly before placing them back in the jar for storage at room temperature. I completely dried the remaining salted shiso leaves and use them as herb salt. If you don’t have salted shiso leaves in your pantry, use 3% salt by weight of the grapes, mix in fresh shiso leaves or parsley. Place a boiled stone as a weight on top. It’s important that the grapes are covered by their own liquid after a few days; if not, top up with a 3% salt solution.