Food Advent Calendar – No.6: Juniper

Juniper berries

We dedicate our sixth day to Christmas with the principle ingredient which flavours the number one reinvigorated spirit of the moment – gin. Juniper is the berry which is not actually a berry. This is because botanically they are considered as female seed cones. For culinary reasons they are referred to as berries but still need to be crushed in order to release their thick evergreen flavour.

Juniper berries are tart and sharp, with a resinous, piney flavour and hints of citrus. The spice is frequently paired with game and other commonly bitter ingredients such as blackcurrant and grapefruit. Juniper berries are commonly used in Northern European cuisine hence showing its tendency to be included in wintery dishes. It can be used in curing as well as marinades. This just shows how essential juniper berries are to the Christmas pantry.

Did you know that gin is not a British spirit?

For some reason many people firmly believe that gin is a child of the British alcohol family. May truth be told that gin was actually developed in the 17th century in the Netherlands. The name gin itself is derived from either the French genièvre or the Dutch jenever, which both mean “juniper”. Eat your heart out Gordon Hendricks The Beafeater!

There was a time when gin was referred to in the UK as ‘Mother’s Ruin’. In the mid-18th century the effects of gin on the family and economy were disastrous. Gin was considered as the poor man’s drink due to its affordability, the spirit had started out as medicine but due to its easy availability, men became impotent while women became sterile.

Further Reading

9 Health Benefits of Juniper Berries

Why Gin Tastes Like Christmas Trees

Mother’s Ruin