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Using Unripe Grapes--Verjus/ Al Ghooreb

 
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In anticipation of the heavy rains from hurricane Ida, I decided to harvest the bulk of my Concord grapes on Tuesday.  It's a little too early, but I thought it better than losing all the perfectly ripe ones if they were knocked off the vine.  I washed them and separated out the ones that just weren't ripe enough to be turned into jelly; it really seemed like such a shame to compost all that fruit (3 lbs!).  So I decided to search and see if there was anything I could do with them and found a solution that not only uses up the grapes, but also reduces my dependence on something (lemon juice) grown way outside my climate zone.

I'm not very worldly, so I'd never heard of verjus or al ghooreb before.  They're basically the same thing, just the fresh pressed and filtered juice of unripe grapes, made either from wine grape thinnings or from vines specifically dedicated to ghooreb (young sour grapes).  It's a common ingredient in Persian cuisine and was used in France for centuries before citrus was available (or too expensive for most people).  It's tart and a little sweet and astringent, really complex in flavor.  

I know my grapes were a bit old to make true verjus/ al ghooreb, but the stuff I made turned out amazing.  

Basic method, according to all the recipes I found:

1. Crush grapes.  Can be done by hand (tedious and burns like the dickens), in a press, with a blender/ food processor (said by some to be unpleasantly bitter because of the broken seeds), or any other way you can think of.  I used a Foley food mill for as much as I could, then used my hands to squeeze what was left in the hopper.  Work quickly, since you don't want the juice to oxidize and lose it's color/ flavor.

2. If planning to use in a raw state, filter juice through cheesecloth and store in a bottle with as little extra air space as possible.  If you don't have cheesecloth (or whatever), strain through a fine mesh strainer, put in a jar and refrigerate for 24 hours to let the solids precipitate out, then carefully decant juice to the bottle you plan on keeping it in.  Keeps 1-2 months

3. For a longer shelf life, filter juice as above and then boil with a little bit of salt (quantities I saw in recipes varied; I used a scant teaspoon/ heavy half-teaspoon in what turned out to be 20ish oz).  Make sure to skim the foam when it boils; it looks gross and doesn't taste great either.  From here, either pour into a sterilized bottle, seal, and store in the fridge, or pour into sterilized jars/ bottles and waterbath can for 5 or 10 minutes.  I don't know the shelf life of this at room temperature when canned, but I'm pretty sure it's acidic enough to be safe for a while.

I got about 20oz (18ish after all my foam skimming) from ~3lbs of grapes.  So far I've used it in place of balsalmic vinegar in my spaghetti sauce and made a kind of lemonade out of it (or, y'know, basically sugar-sweetened grape juice from concentrate, but way better than something from the supermarket).  I'm keeping mine in the fridge, but I may make another small batch with what's left on my grapevine right now and can it, if I can get enough.

Has anyone else made this?  Or does anyone here use it in their cooking?  I have some ideas of ways I'd like to try using it, but I'd love any tips or recipes if anyone has them.

 
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