Organic Juniper Berries
From appearance alone, it may be easy to identify Juniper Berries as in fact being berries. However, they are truly the seed-cone produced by various junipers or Juniperus communis. Juniper Berries taste great on gamey meats and in gravies, especially vegetarian gravies.
Made up of mostly monoterpenes, Organic Juniper Berries has an essential oil content that ranges from 0.5% to 2%.
Juniper Berries exist in many cuisines all over the world and as such have unique names in various languages. "Araar" is what you will hear in Arabic, "genievre" is the French term, "wacholder" is German, "araar" is what you will hear in Hindi, "seiyo suzu" in Japanese, "junipero" is Portuguese, "mozhzhevelnik" is what Russian speakers will say, and you may hear either "junipero" or "enerbro" in Spanish.
You can't talk about Juniper Berries without talking about gin! The word "gin" comes from either the French or Dutch word for juniper, "genievre" or "jenever" respectively. When gin was first crafted, it was called "genever" which people were often too drunk to pronounce thanks to a gin craze in the 18th century in England, leading to the shortening of the name to "gen." Further anglicized, this word turned into "gin" rather quickly. Throughout history gin has caused a lot of commotion, but nowhere so much as it has in England.
Juniper Berries were also used medicinally in various parts of the world. They were used as a diuretic, to treat tapeworms, and they were also thought to help clear out the urinary tract of disease or pain. It was used as a remedy for gout, as well!
In Ancient Egypt, they were left in tombs to be used as either a food or a source of perfume. The first recorded mention of juniper in Egypt comes to us from a papyrus dating around 1500 BCE. In European traditions, we see juniper being used as a protector. Juniper planted near the front door was said to ward off neighborhood witches and burning Juniper berries was a Scottish tradition to ward off the evil eye. Similarly, Tibetans used the aroma of burning juniper to remove demons from the room. Today, Juniper oil is a particularly popular essential oil used in a variety of things from aroma therapy to scented candles or perfumes.
Juniper tends to grow as small shrubs, but in some places, you will find that a juniper tree can reach up to 32 feet tall! It's all about their growing conditions. These trees dont do well in full shade, but prefer somewhat shady areas. Nothing too sunny will do, either. They can thrive in poor soils and in fact prefer soils that other plants wouldnt do well in. Juniper berries are green and darken to a purple black, though it takes roughly two years for the berries to mature enough to be harvested. The berries will grow to be about the size of large pea. Their bodies are smooth and feel somewhat waxy. The outside of the berry has little to no flavor and as such should be crushed before it will release any flavor. Each individual juniper plant will have berries of all different stages of maturity, so they can be harvested from year-round. Once the berries are harvested, they are typically dried in direct sunlight when possible, and their color continues to darken as they dry.
When storing juniper berries, they should be kept away from the light and moisture. They should also be stored in an airtight container.
Our Organic Juniper Berries are from Croatia.
You could, but you may be ingesting poison! There are only a handful of edible types of juniper berries, with the others being quite bitter and others still being poisonous to humans. For safety's sake, buy your juniper berries here instead!
Here in the United States, the Juniper Berry is most popular in the fall during hunting season. Juniper Berries are great for masking the flavor of less pleasant meats, or even gamey meats. Americans tend to use juniper in marinades, brines, stuffing, and sauces. Native Americans were the first people in this country to use juniper berries culinarily; they would season their wild buffalo meat with juniper. In European cooking, you will find juniper berries in gravies and marinades. They are good on elk, beef, or venison. In Germany they are a common sauerkraut flavor.
To make a simple Organic Juniper Berry Gravy, gather your ingredients. You will need 2 tablespoons of butter, 4 tablespoons of flour, 4 cups of vegetable stock, 1 teaspoon of tomato paste, 2 bay leaves, 5 juniper berries, 15 black peppercorns, and kosher salt. First you smash up your juniper berries and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle until the mixture resembles a coarse ground pepper. Melt your butter in a small pan over medium-low heat and once its melted, stir in your flour. If it looks a little grainy, that okay. Cook the mixture, called a roux, until its golden brown, about 5 minutes. While you are waiting for this to cook, combine your vegetable stock and your juniper and pepper mixture. Add a pinch of salt as well, and add mix. Pour your stock mixture into your pan after the roux has browned and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook until this thickens, stirring frequently, for about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat. The gravy will continue to thicken as it cools, and you can add more salt to taste. You may desire to strain the gravy to get rid of the thicker chunks but leaving them in is okay too!
When you are combining with other spices, try Juniper with bay leaves, caraway, garlic, marjoram, pepper, rosemary, or thyme. Juniper Berries taste excellent in marinades, brines, stuffing and sauces.
Organic Juniper Berries have an aroma that is rather bittersweet. The flavor can be described as clean and somewhat citrusy, with a hint of pine notes and some sweetness to it. To some, there is a pleasant, slight burning sensation. Juniper berries have little to no flavor on the outside, they must first be crushed to release some of their essential oils and enhance their flavors. Grind or crush only when you are ready to use the berries in a recipe, as they will quickly lose flavor once ground.
Rosemary is a good substitute for Organic Juniper Berries. They have a similar enough flavor profile that they complement most of the same foods. If you don't have rosemary but have bay leaves, try those instead! 4 Juniper Berries can be replaced by one bay leaf in a recipe. The flavor wont be exact of course, but it will be similar enough.