So I started researching verjuice and found many of the recipes call for sorrel. Which sorrel did they call for ‘wood sorrel’ (Oxalis) or ‘garden sorrel’ (Rumex acetosa)?
My digging didn’t clarify so I asked Pamela Bottrill; who I go to whenever I have a gardening question. She recommend that I dig into The herball or Generall historie of plantes by John Gerarde.
His section of sorrel lists:
1 Sorrel. Oxalis, siue Acetosa.
2 Knobbed Sorrel. Oxalis tuberosa,or Tuberosa acetosa, or Tuberosum lapathum.
3 Sheeps Sorrel. Oxalis tenuifolia. […The second by waters sides, but not in this kingdome that I know of.]
4 Round leaved, or French Sorrel Oxalis Franca seu Romana.
5 Curled Sorrel. […This kind of curled Sorrell is a stranger in England…]
6 Small Sorrel. Oxalis minor.
7 Barren Sorrel, or Dwarf Sheeps Sorrell.
8 Great broad leaved Sorrel. Oxalis, or Acetosa maxima latifolia.
9 Garden Sorrel Acidum la∣pathum, or Acidus rumex.
The good news is that he describes them all kind of the same, with the same uses as a bitter herb, just slightly different shapes.
I would lean towards Rumex acetosa for cooking and Oxalis for salads for the small reason that Oxalis looks like heart shaped three-leaf clovers and I don’t find it as strong a flavour as Rumex Acetosa.
Like verjuice the ‘acetosa‘ is acidic, sometimes called the ‘lemon herb’. During my search I learned that modernly sorrel is used to add a different kind of ‘sour’ to cooking that is different than wine, for ease of pairing the dish with a bottle.
I find wood sorrel to cook with in my lawn and in every one of my planters. It’s a weed. I find common sorrel in my friend’s garden or at really interesting farmers markets.
Please comment below with other ideas for differentiating sorrel in recipes.
Sorrel Sauce (1439)
Surelle. Take Surel, wasche hit, grynde it, put a litil salt, ther-to, and strayne hit, and serue forth. Two fifteenth-century cookery-books
* 2 cups sorrel leaves, washed
* salt to taste
1) Take sorrel and grind in a mortar with a pestle a little at a time until a paste, add small drops of water if required.
2) Add salt to sorrel mush and mix well to dissolve.
3) Strain sorrel mixture through a metal sieve, use a wooden spoon or fingers to push as much pulp as you can through the strainer. Serve immediately, with fish or other meats.
Chicken with Sorrel (1591)
To dress chickens upon sorrell sops. Take sorell and beat it in a mortar, and put in verjuice and strain it through a strainer, then cut fine sops of white bread and lay them in a dish, and put the sorrel sauce to the bread, put cinnamon, ginger, and sugar, with butter to your sauce, then roast your chickens and serve them forth. A book of Cookery
* 1 5lb chicken (or chicken sections)
* salt to taste
* 1 cup of sorrel leaves, washed
* 1/4 cup verjuice
* 6 slices of white bread
* 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, ground
* 1/2 tsp ginger, ground
* 1 tbsp raw sugar cane
*1/4 cup butter
1) Pre-heat oven to 350F. Salt chicken and roast it for about 1 3/4 – 2 hours, until chicken has reached 180F, and the legs and wings twist off easily. Carve generous portions of the roasted bird.
2) While chicken is roasting, take sorrel and grind in a mortar with a pestle a little at a time with verjuice until a paste forms. Strain sorrel mixture through a metal sieve, use a wooden spoon or fingers to push as much pulp as you can through the strainer. Mix spices together and add them to the sorrel juice.
3) Butter each slice of bread. Place bread in bottom of bowl. Sprinkle a generous spoonful or two onto each slice of bread. Place slices of chickens on top of bread slices. Serve them with the leftover sorrel sauce.