Sippin' on Gin and Juniper
Herbs and spices have long been integral to everyday spirits. Gin itself, of course, gets its pinelike flavor and name from juniper berries: In French "juniper" is genièvre; the Dutch call it jenever. While it's been used in drinks for nearly 1,000 years, gin began to evolve into the drink as we know it today sometime in the 1600s.
Today: After ripening for about three years, the berries are harvested in the fall and then dried. Although juniper berries can grow on shrubs pretty much anywhere in the northern hemisphere, they most often find their way to home kitchens in Germany, France and Scandinavia, usually in savory meat dishes and marinades.
The berries aren't especially easy to crush without a spice grinder. For the onion and juniper bread (pictured), we had to beat them with a meat mallet, and even then, some stubbornly refused to be crushed. In the oven, the bread makes the kitchen smell like a boozy bakery, and you'd be hard pressed to find a main dish that can stand up to its pungent taste. It does pair nicely, however, with homemade cucumber gin.
We found a 1.3-ounce jar of juniper berries at Williams-Sonoma in Plaza Frontenac (314-567-9211) for $5.95.
What overlooked spices heat up your kitchen? E-mail Gut Check!