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Juniper (Juniperis communis)
Cupressaceae (cupress family).
Several species of the genus Juniperus grow all over temperate Europe and Asia.
Used plant part
The berry-like cones. They take two years to mature.
Aromatic with a sweet accent
Apart from up to 33% sugars and 10% resin, juniper berries owe their use in the kitchen to an essential oil (0.2 to 2%, dependent on provenance). The essential oil is mainly composed of monoterpenes: 80% a- and ß-pinene, thujene, sabinene, 5% terpinene-4-ol, a-terpineol, borneol and geraniol; sesqiterpenes (a- and ß-cadinen, caryophyllene) are found in traces.
Unripe juniper berries.
Juniper is an important spice in many European cuisines, especially in Alpine regions, where juniper grows abundantly. It is the only example of a spice in the botanic group of the coniferae , and also one of the few examples of spices from cold climatic regions, though the best quality stems from Southern European countries.
Juniper is much used in the traditional cuisine of Central Europe, e.g. for the Southern German speciality Sauerkraut . For its preparation, fresh cabbage is preserved by lactic fermentation and seasoned with juniper, caraway and maybe a few bay leaves. The taste then develops during aging in large wooden barrels. Sauerkraut can either be eaten raw (as a kind of salad), or be cooked or fried (often together with small cubes of ham) to be served as a side dish.
Juniper's main application is, however, meat; it is felt indispensable for venison and combines well with black pepper, marjoram and laurel berries. Juniper berries, rightly called cones, should be crushed immediately before use.
Juniper is also used in destilled drinks, such as the Dutch Jenever and the British gin.
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