There are three weeks left for my 2014 adventure blog, including this one. I wish I could say that the remaining ones will be exciting – but I have no clue. I still need to think them up. But due to getting a 30-page report out the door (yay!), this week’s was mild – mild flavor, that is. I bought juniper and elder berries to try out.
So first, the story of juniper. I really had no idea that one can cook and make tea with juniper berries. My strongest memory of juniper berries is from when I was about 10 years old. My neighbor had juniper bushes – and the berries were very cool looking, but always looked so inedible. I was never tempted. This week, I still was not really “tempted,” but such is my adventure resolution – to go outside my comfort zone. So I brought home a handful from the organic grocery store’s herb section. Of course, then I googled how to cook juniper berries, and realized that I have had them many times, in a way. I used to be a very big fan of gin and tonics, and gin is flavored with juniper berries. But as gin contains such refined versions, I still thought my tea making would count as an adventure. Well, it wasn’t much of one. Juniper berries make for a very weak tea that has a woodsy, gin taste to it. The tea has a stronger smell (very aromatic) than taste, which is interesting.
However, I may have found a better way to utilize juniper berries.
Gin and tonic jelly with juniper berry mousse, lemon sorbet and ginger snaps.
Besides tea, I also ate some of the juniper berries straight. They are very complex. The texture is more plant-like, like a cross between eating wood shavings and figs. Yes, really. Juniper berries aren’t really berries, after all, but mini, fleshy cones (like pine cones, as junipers are related). And they definitely have a complex, layered flavor. It is great at first, somewhat citrus-y, and I also immediately thought they taste ‘purple.’ Now, there’s a bitter, pine bark aftertaste to them. But I could really see them flavoring sauces. Hmmm.
By the way, not all juniper berries are edible, apparently; it depends on the species – so, unless you are in the know, I would only buy them from a store.
So now to try elderberries (a true fruit this time). I have the tea soaking right now, and also plan to cook some pancakes with them in the morning. (now that my 30-page report is done, I can reward myself). Apparently they are tart, and need to be “cooked to come into their own.” But otherwise you can make all sorts of recipes with them.
Wow – the tea is good. Not too sweet, also a little woodsy, but really flavorful. Not weak like the juniper tea.
And …… just tasted the elderberries directly: they are a little tart, but they tastes like some thing I’ve had before, but I just can’t put my finger on it. They should be great in pancakes. Although I will not be cooking with elderberries a lot, because buying them in the store was rather expensive. But as they are native to the U.S., hopefully I can find a source.
Cool. I’m glad I tried this.
P.S. Oh shoot. I always look in WebMed.com to doublecheck about side effects about new plants I eat. Juniper wasn’t listed, but elderberry was. Apparently, it is great (potentially effective) against the flu. (Other benefits are not confirmed.) At first I thought – good to know this season! Then I read that the berries shouldn’t be eaten raw as they can cause nausea and vomiting. Oh, oh – stay tuned, I may have an update tomorrow – the ones I ate were only steeped in hot water. I should really read these articles before I do the tasting…
Still glad I tried this, though.
We’ll see tomorrow….