Juniper Berries are not actually berries! In fact, they are the female seed-cone produced by various species of junipers. The Juniperus communis is typically the type that gives us these juniper berries!
Juniper typically includes 0.5% to 2% essential oil that is made up of mostly monoterpenes.
They are also called “araar” in Arabic, “genievre” in French, “wacholder” in German, “araar” in Hindi, “seiyo suzu” in Japanese, “junipero” in Portuguese, “mozhzhevelnik” in Russian, and “either “junipero” or “enerbro” in Spanish.
Cooking with Juniper Berries
They are the most popular in the fall during hunting season, as they are good for masking the flavor of gamey meat and giving it an interesting flavor. This has been the case all over the world, but in the US we see this evidenced within the history of Native American cultures from the Northwest region who used the crushed berries to flavor wild buffalo. In Europe they are used in marinades for pickled elk and beef or with in venison, and in Germany they are used as a flavoring for sauerkraut.
In the US the Juniper berry is frequently found in marinades, brines, stuffing and sauces. Use with apples, beef, duck, goose, pork, corned beef and sauerbraten. Juniper Berries work well in combination with bay, caraway, garlic, marjoram, pepper, rosemary and thyme.
What Do They Taste Like?
The aroma of it is bittersweet while the taste is clean, slightly citrusy, somewhat piney, and a bit sweet. To some people, there is a bit of a slight, pleasant burning sensation as well. Juniper berries are easily crushed with a mortar, but we recommend that you wait to crush the berries until just before using as this releases their essential oils and enhances their flavor. If you grind too early, they will quickly lose their taste.