Juniper Berries

By Katrin Koelle
Updated on 11. Sep. 2020

Juniper berries' unique flavor and healing properties make it an excellent ingredient, especially when cooking game dishes.

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What You Should Know About Juniper Berries

While juniper berries are still relatively rare in the U.S., their unique flavor has made them a culinary staple in Scandinavian countries for years. If you've ever tried gin, you'll have an idea what juniper berries taste like. This spirit is made from juniper berries, after all, and is a good distilation of its characteristic pine-y taste, with notes of fruitiness and mint.

Along with gin and other alcohols such as certain types of brandy, juniper berries are most popular for making sauces and jams. They can be eaten raw, although their sharp flavor and lack of sweetness isn't for everybody.

Origins

Juniper grows as a shrub or tree in the U.S., throughout Europe today, but was first cultivated in Egypt and Syria centuries ago. for centuries. Botanists estimate that there are up to 70 different species.

Season

Juniper berries take about three years to grow before they're ready for picking, and are in season from September through December in the U.S. However dried juniper berries, which can be used in most recipes, are available all year round.

Flavor

Juniper berries taste pleasantly tart, with a piney, resinous finish.

How Healthy are Juniper Berries?

Juniper was once said to have magical powers: centuries ago, the bushes and their fruits were said to ward off evil. While they might not be that powerful, juniper berries' strong nutritional content is indeed close to magical. The rich essential oils which give juniper berries their distinct smell and flavor provide a wealth of healing properties. They can make dishes rich dishes much easier to digest, can alleviate stomach and intestinal issues and have a diuretic effect. In fact, the slightly disinfectant substances in juniper berries have been used as far back as ancient Egypt, where they were used to make mouthwash, among other things.

JUNIPER BERRIES NUTRITIONAL INFO (100 g)  
Calories 386
Protein 19.8 g
Fat 14.6 g
Carbohydrates 37.3 g
Fiber 12.7 g

Shopping and Cooking Tips

Purchasing

You can buy dried juniper berries at most grocery large grocery stores. It's always best to call ahead just to make sure though, as juniper berries aren't incredibely popular in the U.S. 

Storage

Dried juniper berries keep up to three years without refrigeration as long as you keep them in a well-sealed container container in a dark, cool place.

Preparation

Because of their strong flavor, many recipes call for crushed juniper berries instead of whole ones. This is most easily done with a mortar and pestle, though you can use a food processor as well. You can also find crushed juniper berries at the store. 

What to Make With Juniper Berries

Juniper berries are a classic spice in Scandinavian cooking. They're a foundational flavor in sauerkraut, pickled fish and poached fish dishes. But their unique flavor arguably goes best with game dishes, cutting the richness while adding tons of enhancing flavor. Try throwing juniper berries in your next dish with goose, duck, veal or other game dishes, or other fatty meats like pork.

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