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Saturday, August 7, 2010


Juniper berries can be found throughout the northern hemisphere. They are best known because they are used to flavour gin. However, they have many other uses.
Juniper berries were known to the ancient Egyptians who used them medicinally as did the ancient Greeks. They were prized for their antiseptic qualities and are a diuretic. In northern Europe they were one of the Druid’s sacred plants, and used with thyme in sacred groves to induce visions. Some say that they were the incense used by witches in the Mediterranean region. It was believed that if a juniper shrub was planted by the door of a house, it would discourage thieves. If the berries were strung in a home they would attract love, people thought, and men took them to improve their sexual potency. The essential oil from the juniper berry is said to give protection and purification. Incense from juniper berries is supposed to provide exorcism, protection, healing and bring love.
Pliny, writing in ancient Rome says that as peppercorns were so expensive, dried juniper berries were often a substitute. Archaeologists have found that our European ancestors used juniper berries to flavour their beer.
They are regarded as helping to calm an upset stomach, to cure indigestion and flatulence, and to assist in kidney and bladder diseases because of their diuretic properties. If sheep eat them, dropsy is cured and prevented, apparently. In the Renaissance they were used to cure snake bites, and to protect against the plague. Their leaves smell rather like pine, so they were often used to clear the air, either by strewing them on floors, or by burning the berries on a fire as the Swiss used to do.
In cookery they are used with game and duck, and go well with garlic, onions, thyme, sage, oregano, bay leaves and allspice. They temper the strong flavour of game, and reduce the fatty effects of pork and duck. They are also good in stuffings
A tisane can be made from them by adding 1 cup of boiling water to 1 tbsp of berries, then allowing it to steep for 20 mins before straining and drinking. This tisane can also be put on wounds to clean them. You can safely drink 2 cups of this tisane a day, but it is quite a powerful diuretic.
Juniper berries, when mixed with chrome and alum will produce a khaki or light-brown dye, depending on the quantities used.

500 gr beef, cut into cubes
2 large onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500 gr tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp oregano
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tbsp juniper berries, lightly crushed to release flavour
2 glasses red wine
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan and seal the meat on all sides. Remove and add onions and garlic. Fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Now put all other ingredients in the pan with ½ pint of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 mins, then remove from the heat.
Put all ingredients in an oven proof dish with a tight fitting lid and put in a low oven. Cook for 2-3 hours, until the meat is very tender.
Serve with baked or mashed potatoes and broccoli or other vegetables of your choice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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