Juniper berries

Juniper berries. Can you do anything with Juniper berries?


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,517 admin

    You could make gin! lol.

    Seriously, juniper has a lot of medicinal uses. The berries are diuretic as well as antiseptic and probably best known for use in cases of UTIs. May help in cases of gout. Sometimes added to respiratory blends. May be found in some bitters recipes for digestion. The berries can be added to foot baths to help with sore, tired feet and to help with foot and toe nail fungi.

    In cooking, juniper berries are often used (sparingly) to flavour wild game soups and stews. Dried and ground they are used similarly to pepper (with a more pungent taste).

    The branches (leaves) are used for smudging; for ritual purposes by some First Nations, but also to rid spaces of bad odors (I've used them to dissipate the smell of pack rats in a hunting cabin) and to help reduce insects. They are also used in sweat lodges.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is what I found online. As @Torey wrote, mostly medicinal uses rather than food, but can also be used to add flavor to meat or provide yeast for beer and bread.

    "During the Middle Ages, juniper berries were used to ward off disease and infection. Though part of this may have been plague-paranoia, juniper berries do have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral properties. Native Americans used juniper berries as a medicine to treat sore throats, colds, pain, fever, headaches, joint inflammation, dizziness, kidney stones, as well as to flavor wild game, cakes, and breads. The flavor of juniper berries is said to tone down the gaminess of venison, wild boar, waterfowl, and other game meats. The dusty coating on juniper berries is actually a wild yeast, so juniper berries have also been used for centuries in beer-crafting and breads; many sourdough starter recipes call for juniper berries. In Germany, authentic sauerbraten and sauerkraut are made with juniper berries."

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 995 ✭✭✭✭

    I saw Torey's comment about making gin but not everyone has a home distiller or drinks alcohol. So I was curious if there were any traditional fermented beverages made with juniper berries. Sure enough I found a Bosnian beverage called smreka. I haven't made this but it seems super simple to make and amazingly ferments without needing to add any sugar, and you can use freshly harvested or dried juniper berries. I don't have access to fresh berries but am really tempted to try this with dried. For a quart size mason jar use 3/4 C berries fill with water and put the lid on. Shake and burp daily and let ferment 10 - 30 days. It can be as simple as that or I found recipes with optional add ins for flavor such as lemon.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,517 admin

    @annbeck62 I had forgotten about smreka. I have a recipe for it but there hasn't been a good harvest year since I came across it. It looks like the next harvest will be a bumper crop. So its on my list of things to try.

    It was mostly a joke about the gin as I realize that having a still is not an option for most people. And some prefer not to imbibe. However, if one was so inclined, a "gin" could be made by infusing juniper berries (and other herbs) in vodka for a few weeks.

    Some of the cautions are mentioned in the article that @VermontCathy posted but I'll list them here anyway so they aren't missed. Not for use during pregnancy or lactation. Not for prolonged use. While often used for bladder/kidney conditions, anyone with chronic kidney disease, renal failure or a blocked duct should avoid juniper as it may be too harsh. There may be negative interactions if taking blood thinners. Juniper could raise blood glucose levels, so sugars should be monitored by diabetics.

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 995 ✭✭✭✭

    @Torey I knew it was a joke ;) but it was so perfect because it made me curious and I'd never heard of smreka. Good to know that juniper berry is not for prolonged use because the recipes I found did not mention that.

  • nicksamanda11
    nicksamanda11 Posts: 721 ✭✭✭✭

    I like the extract/tincture idea! Then it could be medicine if you need it or a "gin" if you happen to need that😋

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,375 admin
    edited June 28

    @Torey My husband had a comment about this:

    The berries can be added to foot baths to help with sore, tired feet and to help with foot and toe nail fungi.

    He said, "So we have to run through the juniper patch then?"

    I replied that that might not help the sore feet so much (since our wild ones are so short & extremely prickly.) Haha

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,517 admin

    @LaurieLovesLearning Oooh, that would be prickly!

    We have the benefit of having Rocky Mountain juniper, J. virginiana, here as well as J. communis. The sprays and needles are so much softer and easier to pick. We look for those and avoid the prickly ones if possible.

    The idea mentioned in VermontCathy's article about putting them in a batch of sauerkraut is intriguing. I might have to try that.

  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭

    ****juniper berry sauerkraut***💭