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A very juicy revival

Maggie Beer loves sloshing verjuice into her culinary creations. But what IS it?

What is it? Verjuice is an acidic juice made from unripe grapes. In the Middle Ages, this liquid was apparently used all over Western Europe as a condiment or in sauces, but it wasn’t produced commercially until 1984.

Where did it come from? Although food historians claim that verjuice was used in 42% of French cooking back in the early 15th century, Australian cook and MasterChef regular Maggie Beer was the first in the world to produce it commercially. In 1984, a harvest of Rhine Riesling grapes could not be sold, so Maggie persuaded a winemaker pal of hers to turn it into verjuice. Now, people from all over the world are buying bottles of the stuff.

What does it taste like? Verjuice has a mildly acidic flavour and can lend a sour flavour to sauces and dressings without overpowering it in the way that lemon juice or vinegar could. On her website, Maggie suggests sloshing it into dishes "whenever you want the gentlest bite of flavour".

How is it made? Verjuice is produced by crushing unfermented grapes and straining the pressed juice into bottles.

What do you use it for? Maggie suggests using verjuice for salad dressings, deglazing, or rather delectably, "poaching dried fruit to serve with a glossy dollop of mascarpone". Some of her favourite verjuice recipes include: • Saffron roasted pears with verjuice panna cotta • Lamb cutlets with fig paste stuffing • Dried apricot tart with verjuice and honey • Asparagus with verjuice hollandaise • Porcini mushroom and verjuice linguine