It’s so much more than a flavoring for gin! The variety that Juniper berries are harvested from is indeed a relative of the ornamental kinds we see out and about, but not all juniper berries are edible, so go with known sources rather than picking from the front shrubs. As some forestry buff is likely to point out, Junipers are actually a coniferous evergreen, and as such, the berries technically aren’t berries, they’re cones; now look who’s picking nits…
Juniper berries can be a bit hard to find, but World Spice, Penzey’s, or Pendrey’s will come to your rescue with a fresh supply; it’s well worth adding to your spice cabinet and here’s why.
You’ll use Juniper sparingly, so an ounce or two is plenty for your pantry. It’s a strong flavor, similar in seasoning power to Rosemary, but with a fruitier, somewhat resinous overtone to it, (again, they’re cones, so that makes sense, right?)
Juniper makes a stellar addition to base spices for stock, equally good for my mind in beef, chicken, pork or veggie. Two or three whole berries are plenty, added to your usual cohorts.
You can toast or roast the berries to bring out more complexity in the flavor profile.
If you’re using them as part of a rub or marinade and want to release a stronger juniper flavor, gently crush the berries under the flat of a chefs knife as you would garlic cloves, or do them up in a dedicated spice grinder.
For dang near any kind of game, Juniper is a secret weapon for taking the funky (AKA ‘gamey’, ‘strong’, etc) notes out of the taste profile. Try this wonderful rub as a marinade on any game you like.
3 cloves fresh Garlic
1-2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon black Pepper
3 juniper berries, crushed
2 sprigs Rosemary, about 3″ long
Juice and zest of 1/2 fresh Lemon
Peel and finely mince the garlic.
Zest the lemon, bright color skin only of course.
Strip the leaves from the Rosemary sprigs and chop them finely.
Put juniper and pepper in a spice grander and process them until fine ground.
Put all of the above into a non reactive bowl, add the garlic, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. mix thoroughly to a paste like consistency, add more oil if needed.
Spread evenly on all surfaces of your meat. Allow to marinate, refrigerated, for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
This is also a great marinade for poultry or pork. If you like the flavor profile, try adding a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a cup of grapefruit or orange juice for a wonderful wet marinade.