Recently, while looking into what could be made with the sour grapes growing on my family’s grape vines, I learned about an interesting condiment from my family and the gardeners that I work with — Lebanese Hosrom or Verjuice.
Sharab el hosrom, which is Arabic for unripe (green) grape drink, is a non-brewed condiment commonly made in the villages of Lebanon, where it’s used as a sour flavoring for salads, such as fattoush, as well as in stews, soups, fried vegetables, and even desserts. While hosrom is a popular preparation made in Lebanon, it is not widely sold in the diaspora communities, so it was new to me.
This sour condiment also goes by a number of other names, such as ab ghooreh in Persian, which is used as a vinaigrette in the shirazi salad of Iran, as well as verjuice (verjus) meaning “green juice” in French. My friend from Iraq tells me that hosrom is combined with water and sugar to make a refreshing sweet and tart drink.
Health Benefits of Unripe Grape Juice
Hosrom or verjuice is also an antimicrobial kitchen staple that I use whenever I feel the signs of a cold coming on, such as a sore throat or sinus congestion. As a sour astringent, it serves to tighten and dry membranes that have the presentation of nasal congestion and discharge.
The health benefits of this unripe grape preparation are plenty. For example, a study found that this preparation notably reduced Salmonella strains and could be used as an antimicrobial in salad vegetables.1 Its antimicrobial effects were studied in another research article that determined this may be due to the high levels of organic acids as well as phenolic compounds.2
In Iranian traditional medicine, the use of unripe grapes (Vitis vinifera L.) has been attributed to improving cardiovascular health, including hypertension and atherosclerosis.3 While we have established that sour grapes are a functional food, they also contain good amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and manganese.4
How to Use Verjuice in Cooking
Does anyone else go into a panic when lemons are needed for a dish but you are out of them? Well, having this hosrom or verjuice as a backup can be a relief, if not a tasty preference. The hosrom juice can easily be used as an alternative for lemon in any recipe, comparatively imparting a slightly less acidic taste.
Fortunately, unlike lemon trees, grape vines can grow in most parts of the world and using these sour grapes is a wonderful way to prevent food waste. When is the right time to pick the grapes? It depends on the grape vine variety you have, but you want to pick them while they are still unripe before the sugar content increases and when they are soft and swell enough to juice. Usually the grapes are green in color, but there are also red varieties that are sour and unripe.
When unripe grapes are not available, verjuice or hosrom can be made with other acidic fruits such as crab apples, pomegranates, plums, and even sour blueberries.
Hosrom With Herbs for Cold and Flu
As an added herbal twist to aid as a preventative and immunity support for colds, I like to mix hosrom juice with a goldenrod and sage infused honey.
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.): At the first signs of sinus congestion, I always turn to goldenrod, as it is an astringent that tightens the tissues and removes excess mucilage in the respiratory tract, without overdrying. It is also an antimicrobial. For example, in a study on plants used in Haudenosaunee traditional medicine, Solidago canadensis was found to have a bactericidal effect on Staphylococcus aureus.5
Sage (Salvia spp.): Sage is another herb specific for fevers by acting as a diaphoretic. It can also soothe sore throats with its anti-inflammatory properties and astringency.6 In addition, it supports the body as an antimicrobial, with research showing its essential oil components were inhibitory towards several Gram-positive bacteria.7
Hosrom with Goldenrod Sage Honey
This recipe for verjuice or hosrom with herb-infused honey has a slightly sweet but sour and tangy taste. Similar to the way one would take apple cider vinegar, I take 1 tablespoon of the hosrom juice either alone or added to water. It can also be incorporated as a salad dressing, in a lemony potato and swiss chard soup, as well as in any other dish that requires acidity.
What you’ll need…
- Sterilized jars
- 4 cups unripe grapes
- 1/2 teaspoon pickling salt
- Olive oil
- 1 tablespoon strained Goldenrod Sage Honey (see quick recipe below)
- Remove the grapes from their stems and wash thoroughly. Then, process the juice either by using a juicer or a blender. I prefer using a juicer to get a larger yield of the juice, but some caution against this due to the grape seeds being pressed.
The seeds impart a bitter flavor and astringency to the juice, as well as a yellowing color. Due to the health promoting composition of grape seeds, I don’t mind this and believe the more seeds, the merrier! Another option is to use a blender to pulse the grapes (keeping the seeds whole) and a fine-mesh strainer to extract the juice.
- Bring the unripe grape juice to a boil for 1 minute in a pot and then add in the pickling salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer on medium heat for another 15 minutes. Remove the foam that forms on the top. If you’ve used green unripe grapes, the color will change to a brownish-yellow after heating but the sourness will not change.
- After allowing the hosrom juice to cool, mix in the Goldenrod Sage Honey. Add the juice to the sterilized jars and top with 1 cm of olive oil (you can omit this step if you will be making a sweet drink). This should keep for 3 months in the refrigerator, or longer with the addition of the olive oil or if frozen.
Yield: 2 to 3 cups
Goldenrod Sage Honey
To make this, gather 3 heads of fresh goldenrod flowers and leaves, and wash well. In a jar, add the goldenrod and a few leaves of fresh sage, then pour in honey to cover the plant material. Let this mixture stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks before using. (Note: If you don’t have access to fresh herbs, the honey can also be made with dried herbs.)
- Mehmet Karapinar and Ilkin Yucel Sengun, “Antimicrobial effect of koruk (unripe grape—Vitis vinifera) juice against Salmonella typhimurium on salad vegetables,” Food Control 18, no. 6 (2007): 702-706. ↩
- Şeniz Karabiyikli and Nilgün Öncül, “Inhibitory effect of unripe grape products on foodborne pathogens,” Journal of Food Processing and Preservation 40, no. 6 (2016): 1459-1465. ↩
- Amanda D. De Matos, Andrea Curioni, Alan T. Bakalinsky, Matteo Marangon, Gabriella Pasini, and Simone Vincenzi, “Chemical and sensory analysis of verjuice: an acidic food ingredient obtained from unripe grape berries,” Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies 44 (2017): 9-14. ↩
- Elson M. Haas, Staying Healthy With Nutrition, 21st Century Edition: The Complete Guide to Diet & Nutritional Medicine (New York: Random House Digital Inc., 2006), 1151. ↩
- Frank M. Frey and Ryan Meyers, “Antibacterial activity of traditional medicinal plants used by Haudenosaunee peoples of New York State,” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 10, no. 1 (2010): 64. ↩
- Thomas Easley and Steven Horne, The Modern Herbal Dispensatory: A Medicine-making Guide (California: North Atlantic Books, 2016), 298. ↩
- Mansour Ghorbanpour, Mehrnaz Hatami, Khalil Kariman and Payman Abbaszadeh Dahaji, “Phytochemical variations and enhanced efficiency of antioxidant and antimicrobial ingredients in Salvia officinalis as inoculated with different rhizobacteria,” Chemistry & biodiversity 13, no. 3 (2016): 319-330. ↩