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Vertjus, was first mentioned by the Roman Lucius Apuleius in "The Golden Asse" - and was then a fermented drink made with grapes or crabapples, generally flavoured with oranges (if they were available, and damask rose leaves).
It was then developed in South-Western France in medieval times, when it would first have been made with sorrel juice and then from unripe plums. From the 16th century it has again been made with crushed and strained unripe grapes and has been an inexpensive culinary by-product of wine growing areas ever since. In Britain, where it was known as verjuice, it was made with crab apples if wine juice was not available.
During Elizabethan times it was used to stave off the dreaded scurvy that was a regular winter problem.
Vertjus is used mostly as a mild alternative to vinegar, but makes an interesting alternative cooking medium to wine. It generally has a Sherry-like quality and an alcohol content of about 10%. See also "La Varenne, Pierre François de". For stockists see our Mail Order section.