Dried Juniper berries for making gin ... and great venison dishes!
Be careful when adding juniper berries. It is highly aromatic and too many will spoil your gin. A little goes a long way.
A bit about the Juniper berry:
Juniper berries are actually the female seed cones produced by the conifer species Juniperus communis. These cones have thick fleshy scales that give the cone an almost berry-like appearance.
The "berries: varies in size from about 4 to 10mm in diameter. Young berries are green while matured berries turn dark purple, almost black.
The outer scales of the berry is almost flavourless while the inside of the berry contains the characteristic Juniper flavour. This flavour resembles pine-flavour with a fresh-green and citrus notes.
The berries should be finely crushed before using for ginning or even for infusions (like in "bath tub gin").
Apart from using the juniper berries in gin, it is widely used in venison dishes and is a know diuretic, used as a remedy for arthritis and rheumatism, an appetite suppressant and is currently researched as a treatment for diet-controlled diabetes. Quite a remarkable little "fruit".
A juniper berry takes between 2 and 3 years to germinate and the shrub/tree grows very slow. It is not uncommon for a 1m high juniper plant to be in excess of 20 years old! They are known to become more than 150 years old.
Juniper berries are extremely difficult to get in South Africa as we don't have any natural occurring juniperus communis suitable for commercial harvesting. Strict import regulations on plant material makes the import thereof quite a paper exercise!