Introduction and description
Juniper berries are the fruit and hence seeds of the Juniper which is a small shrub, 4 to 6 feet high, widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It occurs freely on chalky siliceous soils where a little lime occurs. It is a common shrub where bands of limestone occur, as on some of the Scotch mountains and on the limestone hills in the Lake district.
Juniper berries take two or three years to ripen, so that blue and green berries occur on the same plant. Only the blue, ripe berries are picked. After collection, they are laid out to dry a little, during which process they lose some of the blue bloom and develop the blackish colour seen in commerce.
The berries are used for the production of the volatile oil which is a prime ingredient in Dutch Geneva or Hollands Gin, “upon which its flavour and diuretic properties depend”. They are made into a beer in Sweden. But Juniper berries can be used directly in cooking and are an extremely tasty sharp addition to rich food.
Juniper berries lose their oils when stored for long periods and as a consequence lose their flavour. It is best to buy small quantities when you need them, or better pick your own.
And they have healing properties when fresh.
There is a rather sad article that is worth reading about the disappearance of the Juniper bush in the UK.
Juniper berries are best used fresh. They can be crushed with sea salt in a pestle and mortar just before you wish to use them.
They are delicious added to game stews such as venison or partridge and pheasant or hare with the addition of a little home made red currant jelly.
They can also be added to cabbage stir fried in olive oli and butter and go well with sausages.
There may be a rational behind having a glass of gin and tonic in hot malarial countries!
How it workssee observations
The trees are disappearing - they may soon be a luxury.
They must be used fresh, store in an air tight jar in the dark and in a cool place to preserve their flavour and only buy in small quantities when you need them.
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