Juniper berries are perhaps most widely recognised as one of the main flavourings in gin. These spicy, aromatic, small purplish-black berries can be used fresh or dried, crushed or whole. They come from a small evergreen bush and have a flavour reminiscent of pine and only a small amount is needed to impart flavour. They are often used in marinades, casseroles and pâtés. To make a coarse pâté en croute marinade chunks of pork, rabbit, duck or game with a little wine, juniper berries and other flavourings before wrapping in pastry and baking. However, although they are more often found in savoury dishes there is no reason at all why they cannot be added to sweet baking - they are very good added to a rich fruitcake mixture, for example. The berries should be crushed in a pestle and mortar before use.
Why not try making almond and gin biscuits, by infusing a few crushed berries in a spoonful or two of gin for half an hour before straining the gin and adding it to an almond biscuit mixture? Or, during the autumn a few juniper berries can be infused in some warm port for half an hour before straining and adding to plums with lemon zest, cinnamon and sugar. This mixture can then be made into a delicious plum pie or crumble.
Fiona Burrell, co-author of Leiths Baking Bible, from Leiths School of Food and Wine