Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Verjuice – Wacky Word Wednesday

Pucker those lips and get ready for something tart with today’s Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world!

Today’s definition from TermWiki.com:

ver·juice

[vur-joos]

-noun, adjective

acidic liquor made from unripe fruits; sourness, in temper or expression

A cartoon depiction of verjuice, acidic liquor made from unripe fruits; sourness, in temper or expression.

Verjuice comes from the Middle French word vertjus, with vert meaning green and jus meaning juice. The prefix vert refers to the unripe status of the fruit rather than the color. The culinary definition of the word dates back to medieval times, when verjuice was used for cooking and medicinal purposes. According to food historian Jean Louis Flandrin, verjuice was found in approximately 42% of all French cuisine recipes in the early 15th century, a seemingly key ingredient for any French kitchen during that time.

Created from unripe fruits, commonly grapes, crab apples, plums, or gooseberries, verjuice was used as late as the 18th century to clean rusty nails, fur, and wool; as a medicinal agent, when mixed with watered down milk, it was taken to prevent scurvy.

In the 19th century, crusaders returned home with lemons in hand, and verjuice eventually fell from favor. It wasn’t until just recently that there has been a revival of verjuice use, encouraged by popular Australian chef and verjuice aficionado Maggie Beer. She describes the mixture as having “the tartness of lemon juice and the acidity of vinegar without the harshness of either…[making] it an extraordinarily versatile ingredient.” It is even mild enough to drink over ice, with sparkling water or as a cocktail mixer.

According to the definition mentioned above, verjuice can be used to describe a sour temper or expression. Below are some sentence examples using verjuice in this manner:

  • Then, leaning forward with a most verjuice expression on his pale face, he said, “Give that gentleman half a minute to get out of the way.” (Charlotte Brontë, Tales of Angria)
  • “What is this wonderful thing you would have me do?” asks he, some of the accumulated verjuice of years disappearing from his face. (Molly Bawn)

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One Response

September 14, 2011

Wow – is it really possible to buy this stuff?