Verjuice – A medieval flavour revival

verjuice

Verjuice* or Vert Jus (Green Juice) in French refers not to its colour but to its main ingredient, unripe (sour) fruit.

In medieval times, across much of the Mediterranean and Middle East regions and in England, when sour was perhaps a more widely appreciated taste than now, the term, verjuice, could refer to the unfermented juice of a variety of unripe fruits, from grapes to crab apples, sorrel, gooseberries to plums.

Verjuice was used to give depth to flavours and add a delicate tartness to all kinds of sauces, condiments, mustards, stews and meats.

However, following the introduction into Europe of the tomato (C16th) and lemon (C19th) the popularity of verjuice gradually declined.

In its modern incarnation, verjuice refers only to the bottled juice of unripe grapes, normally picked during the thinning process about halfway toward maturity in late July or August when the grapes are high in acid and low in sugar.

Green grapes are most often used, but sometimes red are added, creating a slightly more full-blooded product.

Early summer

Like lemon juice, verjuice adds a fresh tartness to a wide range of dishes but it is more gentle and subtle with a slight but definite undercurrent of vegetal sweetness. Indeed verjuice has the tartness of lemon juice and the acidity of vinegar but without the bitterness of either. Consequently it complements rather than masks other flavours. This is because its tartness is derived from tartaric acid (the same acid found in wine) as opposed to the citric acid of lemons or the acetic acid of vinegar.
Today, verjuice remains popular in the Middle East where it is used as a marinade for fish and in both vegetable and meat stews but it has attracted increasing interest elsewhere and is being used in new ways to enhance flavours.

It is used, for example, to deglaze pan juices, as a substitute for citrus juices in desserts and as a dressing for salads. It is also served as an aperitif and mixologists incorporate it into syrups and cocktails.

Verjuice is now commercially available with producers in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA.

*known as Agresta (Italian), Agraz (Spanish), Ab-Ghooreh (Persian), Husroum (Arabic), Hosrum (Lebanese Arabic)

Cupuaçu

DELICIOUS, CREAMY AND WITH A TOUCH OF SHERBET!  THEOBROMA GRANDIFLORUM.

Cupuaçu really is a strange fruit. Outside of Brazil its largely unknown.

A cupuaçu tree can reach 20 metres (65ft) but its more likely to range from 5 to 15 metres (16-50ft) in height. As the tree matures, its leaves change from pink-tinted to green leading to the eventual production of fruit. Within its range the fruits become ripe from January to April during the rainy season. The fruit it bears have a very distinctive oblong and brown shape with a fuzzy texture. Reaching 20cm (8in) in length and 1-2kg (2-4lb) it’s size can be compared to a medium sized watermelon. The cupuaçu fruits contain a soft white pulp found within a hard exocarp of 4-7mm. This creamy interior is considered the only edible part.

Pronounced ‘coopwa-soo’, this member of the Cacao family is often considered to be the emblematic fruit of the Amazon and a national fruit of Brazil. It is a tropical rainforest tree found throughout the Amazon basin, cultivated between a huge range from Colombia all the way south to Bolivia and to the Northern states of Brazil.

Cupuaçu

THE FLAVOUR PROFILE

Trying to describe the taste of cupuaçu is not easy. Its not really like anything else. It can be sweet to sour depending on its ripeness. A complex mix of pear, banana, a sharp hint of pineapple, chocolate notes, passionfruit, melon and a sherbet like kick. Its aroma is an intense mix of chocolate and pineapple with hints of the yeasty smell of the custard apple family. The interior is smooth and creamy and in juice form very pulpy.

SCIENCE OF CUPUAÇU

Cupuaçu has a caffeine like effect giving an synergistic impact when consumed. It contains theacrine in contrast to the xanthines (caffeine, theobromine & theophylline) found in the cacao bean which is also a Theobroma species. It has been speculated that it has possible superfruit qualities due to high amounts of phytochemicals. It is heavy with vitamin b1, b2, b3, fatty and amino acids, at least 9 antioxidants and a high flavonoid content.

Cupuacu

HOW TO USE IT?

Cupuaçu is considered to have a delicious flavour profile. It is very rare to see it used in any other form other than as a raw pulp as heat can alter its consistency and taste considerably. Brazil is the centre of Cupuaçu consumption where it is loved as a fruit juice, as an ice cream flavour or simply scooped out of the hard exocarp and eaten fresh. Other uses include in sweets, jams and desserts.

Yerba Mate

THE ESSENTIAL SOURCE OF YERBA MATE – ILEX PARAGUARIENSIS

The Yerba Mate tree is a shrub belonging to the holly family which is found in Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Uruguay. Brazil is the biggest producer of mate along with Argentina, while the Uruguayans are famous for their high consumption of the traditional drink ‘mate’. Yerba Mate is said to provide more polyphenols and flavanoids than either red wine or green tea as well as less tannin content. In recent years it has exploded in popularity outside of its native consumption region.

Erva-Mate

THE FLAVOUR PROFILE

There really is no other way of putting it. Yerba mate is really bitter and often first considered as an unpleasant taste. It does possess a herbal and grassy flavour profile but the overwhelming sensation is of bitterness. It is an acquired taste often outweighed by the social and health benefits that come with it. Purists would be horrified by the idea of adding sugar to it or even worse sweetener but this practice is extremely common too among mate drinkers.

SCIENCE OF YERBA MATE

It has a low level of caffeine that is uniquely bound with an alkaloid, making it an exceptional tool for endurance performances because it produces an energy like coffee and teas, but without the muscle tension. The leaves contains three xanthines: caffeine, theobromine and theophylline with the former a well known stimulant, hence its power as an alternative to coffee and tea. Female plants tend to be milder in flavour and lower in caffeine, while yerba mate harvested in summer has a higher caffeine content than spring or fall.

HOW TO USE IT?

The most common use for yerba mate is in the infusion that takes its name. ‘Mate’ accounts for the majority of its production. The process of preparing mate has become a ritual in various countries where it is consumed on a daily basis. It is prepared by stepping dry leaves and twigs into hot water around 165-175° F / 74-80°C. Using boiled water can ‘burn’ the yerba mate increasing the presence of its bitter notes. The dried yerba mate is placed into the base of a hollow gourd with the hot water poured over the top. It is allowed to stew for a short time and then the mixture is drunk with a metal tube called the ‘bombilla.’

Other uses include the toasting of yerba mate to form ‘mate cocido’ – cooked mate. It is most commonly served in the form of a tea bag or freshly made and then put in a strainer. Terere is yerba mate chilled with iced fruit juice or water.

Mate Desde Arriba