Juniper is a ripe purple-black berry-like seed usually dried as an aromatic spice.
What does juniper taste like?
The flavor is a fragrant warmth, tart and sharp with a pungent aroma of pine, spice, pepper, and citrus.
Where does juniper come from?
Native through Europe, North America, and Southwest Asia, juniper or juniperus communis is a member of the pine family. In Latin juniper translates to ‘youth producing’ and the spice has historically been regarded for its medicinal properties.
Juniper berries are most famous for being the flavoring for gin, the word coming from the Dutch for juniper ‘geniver’.
Juniper also has many uses in cooking for both savory and sweet properties, when heated there is a slow release of flavor so the berry suits being lightly crushed and simmered into a sauce, stew, or braise.
Dried juniper berries can be used to smoke meats or fish producing a fragrant floral aroma.
Further applications that benefit from juniper include spice rubs, marinades, stews, cures, sauces, stuffings, pickling, and syrups.
- Rosemary: rosemary matches the strong herbal flavor of juniper and should be used for slow-cooked recipes.
- Bay Leaf: add bay leaves when cooking meat with juniper to replicate pungency and sharpness although less floral.
- Black Peppercorn: black pepper carries similar floral notes as well as warming characteristics, best suited to cures, marinades, and stews as a replacement.
Juniper Compliments and Pairings
Juniper can be used with a range of ingredients either to impart a light floral component or a deep aromatic warmth. These ingredients include fruits, berries, port, pork, fish, red meat, game, vegetables, potato, chocolate, vanilla, lemon, caraway, rosemary, black peppercorn, and bay leaf.
Juniper Expiration and Storage
- Dried Whole: store juniper berries in an airtight container and use within two years. Grind the berries as you need them or infuse whole and remove before serving.
- Dried Ground: pre-ground juniper is less potent and should be stored in an airtight container to maintain freshness for up to six months.
Fun Facts About Juniper
- The Dutch invention of gin, juniper flavored vodka, led to the origin of the phrase ‘dutch courage’. Adopted by British sailors in the Anglo-Dutch wars as a slur against their counterparts for needing alcohol for confidence.
- There are 45 varieties of juniper, some of which are safe to eat but many are not suitable for human consumption.
- Juniper berries are in fact the seed of a cone and not a berry but named for their appearance.
Popular Juniper Recipes
- Gin fizz
- Juniper and gin gravlax
- Fruit cake
- Juniper pickled cucumber
- Red wine and juniper braised venison
- Juniper sauerkraut