Juniper is a female seed cone, which is mostly considered as a true Berry but does not actually belong to the Berry family. The Juniper berries are produced by various species of the plants. It consists of fleshy layer and it looks similar to other berries. It holds a bitter sweet aroma. These berries are considered to have medical values as well as holds distinctive flavors. The Juniper has green colored berries when they are young and once matured the color changes from purple to black. It takes over about 18 months for the berries to mature in most of the species. The dark colored berries are not commonly used in cuisines, where as young Junipers are used in Gin for flavoring purposes.
The Juniper berries which are used for the flavoring purpose are taken from a specific species of Juniper known as ‘Juniperus communis’. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the only spice derived from conifers is Juniper berries. A few edible species of the Juniper category includes - Juniperus drupacea, Juniperus phoenicea, Juniperus Deppeana, Juniperus oxycedrus, and Juniperus californica. The Apache cuisines use Juniper in most of the cuisine, especially as a sweetening agent.
History of the Juniper Recipes
Junipers have been found on the Egyptian tombs at various sites including the tomb of Tutankhamen. The Juniper berries are believed to have introduced to the Egyptians by the Greeks. The Greeks have used these berries as part of their medicine more than an ingredient in the food. It was also considered to build on the physical strength in athletes and was widely used at the time of the Olympic events. Juniper Berries have known to be growing throughout the Northern Hemisphere, and are widely used in Scandinavian and French cuisines. The Juniper has been used as a substitute for black pepper and long pepper by the Romans, as pepper has been highly expensive. It was also found that in the olden times, berries was used as an adulterant for pepper because it had a few properties of pepper. The Dutch are known to be the first people to have introduced these berries along with alcohol. It was mixed with Gin, as drinking Gin was considered as a part of the medicinal treatment. It was also known to be an appetite stimulant.
Culinary uses of Juniper Berries
Junipers are mostly found in the temperate zones of Europe and North America. Juniper berries provide a distinctive flavor to meat cuisines. One of the most important aspect of the Juniper berries is that it flavors the dish without actually overpowering the core ingredients. The berries are also used by Scandinavians for pickling, as it has a clear flavor. While using the berries of Juniper for cooking purposes, the cones are meant to be slightly crushed as it releases the flavor. The external scales of the cones do not provide a favorable taste. These berries can be used in cooking either in the dried or fresh forms, though the fresh Junipers have a definite flavor. It can be used in marinades and sauces to increase the flavor. In the Northern Europe and the United States of America, Juniper dishes include roast pork, sauerkraut, meat, stuffing, sausages, stews, and soups. It is also considered as an unique flavoring for wild birds and game meats. Traditional Juniper recipes include choucroute garnie, which is an Alsatian dish made out of sauerkraut and meats. A few Norwegian and Swedish dishes also include Juniper berries. Czech, Austrian, and Hungarian cuisine often uses these berries with roasts. Northern Italian cuisine, especially the Alto Adige/Südtirol also uses juniper berries in the recipes. Other than the Gin there are few other beverages that use the berries which include – the Finnish Rye and beer known as ‘Sahti’.
Nutritive Value: Juniper Recipes
- The berries are known to have medicinal values which can treat internal as well external ailments.
- It has been known as diuretic and is also considered as an appetite stimulant.
- It is also prescribed as a remedy for rheumatism and arthritis.
- Juniper is not advised for pregnant women as well as people with Kidney problems, as there could be reactions.