Juniper Berries, Juniperus communis, are also called juniper berry.
Juniper Berries have .5% - 2.0% essential oil.
What Are Juniper Berries
Juniper Berries are not actually berries, as botanically speaking, they are female seed cones from the juniper tree. But these dark little beauties taste and look enough like berries that we're fine with referring to them as such.
Juniper is an important spice in the cuisine of Central Europe, especially in Alpine regions of Germany and France. Indigenous to the U.K. this is one of the few spices native to a cold climatic region. A popular spice for German sauerkraut and venison dishes while in America it is probably most associated with gin and Turkey Brine Seasoning.
Juniper Berries have three seeds inside and are typically dried and sold whole, but should be coarsely ground or lightly crushed right before using.
History of Juniper Berries
Juniper Berries were found in the tomb of the Egyptian King Tutankhamun (1341 – 1323 BC). Given that the berries are not native to that area it is believed that they were acquired in trade with the Mycenaean Greeks. Juniper Berries are mentioned in the Bible (written between about 1200 and 165 BC). The Greek people have a long history with Juniper Berries, during the Greek Dark Ages (1100 - 750 BC), the Perioeci, who controlled commerce and business, collected harbor dues, and were known to accept some payments in the form of salt and Juniper Berries. Later the Greeks used the berries in many of their Olympics events (which began in 776 BC) because of their belief that the berries increased physical stamina in athletes.
Pliny the Elder (23 - 79 AD), the Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher, wrote of Juniper Berries in his 10-volume encyclopedic Naturalis Historia: "Pepper is adulterated with Juniper Berries, which have the property, to a marvelous degree, of assuming the pungency of pepper". The Romans also used the dried berries as a cheap, domestically produced substitute for the expensive Black Pepper and Long Pepper imported from India".
One of the oldest known uses of Juniper in fermented beverages was found in a bronze strainer discovered in Southern Zealand, Denmark. This remnant of the Bronze Age (3100 - 300 BC) was analyzed and the residues had traces of terpenes characteristic of juniper – fenchol, junipene, and terpineol, indicating that juniper was one ingredient in a mixture of fermented berries and honey, which was a popular drink more than 3,000 years ago in Nordic countries. The earliest written record of Juniper Berries being used in alcohol production was by Belgian theologian Thomas van Cantimpre, whose Century Liber de Natura Rerum (written between 1225 and 1244 AD) recommended boiling Juniper Berries in wine to treat stomach pain. By 1639 Juniper Berries were appearing in English distillers’ recipes for gin.
Juniper Berry Cultivation
Production from seed is rare for Juniperus communis as germination rates are low, long, and very unpredictable. Commercial growers propagate plants from cuttings as plantable stock can be produced from vegetative propagation in two years, while plantable seedlings need four years when grown from seed. This slow growing evergreen shrub can reach a height of 5' - 15' and can live for hundreds of years. The berries are green when young, and it takes about 18 months to mature to a purple-black color.
Juniper does well in open, sunny locations with well-drained soils, but will grow in dry, clay soils and they can readily be found thriving on cliff edges in rocky soil. Considered to be drought-tolerant shrubs they are adaptable to both dry and wet conditions. Junipers can withstand winter temperatures as low as -49°F in the winter with summer temperatures as high as 80°F.
Juniper Berries all appear at different times, so each individual tree or shrub will likely have berries all within various stages of growth and ripeness. Typically, juniper is not farmed but foraged with the ripe berries being hand-plucked or beaten from the branches, both of which are a slow and laborious process. Commercially, once the berries have been picked, they are dried on shelving units directly in the sun. The berries will darken as they dry.
While indigenous to the U.K. they are also cultivated in India, Italy, and the U.S.
Where Are These Juniper Berries From
Depending on the time of year and availability either Albania or Bulgaria.
What Do Juniper Berries Taste Like
Woody and astringent with sweet, lemon, and pinelike overtones.
What Are Juniper Berries Used For
Besides being the main flavoring for gin, Juniper Berries are used in Europe to flavor pork and remove the gamey flavor from barbecued or roasted wild meat, especially duck, rabbit, and venison. They are also used in liver pates, stuffing, and German sauerkraut (with Bay Leaves and Caraway Seed). In the U.S. Juniper Berries are frequently found in brines, marinades, sauces, and stuffing.
Use with apples, beef, cabbage, casseroles, cheese, corned beef, duck, goose, pork, pot roasts, pickled meats, rabbit, sauerbraten, sauerkraut, seafood, and venison. They can also be used in sweet dishes such as fruitcake.
Juniper Berries work well in combination with bay, caraway, garlic, marjoram, pepper, rosemary and thyme.
What Can Be Used Instead of Juniper Berries
The best substitutes for Juniper Berries are Rosemary, Caraway Seeds, and Gin. Like Juniper Berries, Rosemary has a woody flavor. Use 1/4 teaspoon for every 1 teaspoon of Juniper Berries. Caraway Seeds have a similar warm and somewhat sharp flavor. Substitute on a 1:1 basis.
Gin is a distilled alcoholic beverage whose dominant flavor is derived from Juniper Berries. No need to worry about adding alcohol to your recipe as the alcohol in gin essentially evaporates during the cooking process, leaving only the Juniper Berry flavor. Use 1 teaspoon of gin for every 2 teaspoons of Juniper Berries.
We recommend using a top grade gin - Tanqueray, Beefeater, or Plymouth for the best flavor.
|Also Called||Juniper berry|
|Recommended Uses||Pork, duck, rabbit, venison, sauerkraut, cheese, corned beef, and pickled meats|
|Flavor Profile||Woody and astringent with sweet, lemon, and pinelike overtones|
|Oil Content||.5% - 2.0%|
|Botanical Name||Juniperus communis|
|Cuisine||American, France, and German|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 years|
|Country of Origin||Albania or Bulgaria|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free, Non-GMO|
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Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*