Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Truffle-icious Use For Juniper Berries

Chocolate Juniper Truffles

Jennifer Hahn and Katy Beck

These are velvety, melt-in-your-mouth truffles with a gin-infused chocolate ganache (filling) and a crunchy juniper berry in the middle. Thankfully, they are as easy to make as they are to pop in your mouth. The main thing for quality control’s sake is to buy the best bittersweet chocolate you can find—such as Callebaut or Varhona with 50% cocoa solids. The best places to get such quality chocolate is from a chocolatier that sells bulk chocolate. You can make ganache the night before, so it can solidify in the fridge, and be ready to roll into bite-sized morsels the next day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The "Berry" with a Bite -- Common Juniper Field Notes

FIELD NOTES Common Juniper (Juniperus communis):

Common Names: Dwarf Juniper, Ground Juniper, Prostrate Juniper, Old Field Common Juniper, Horse Savin, Mountain Berry, Mountain yew, swamp bough, Aiten (Gaelic), Dena’ina of Alaska call the cones dlin’a gega “mouse’s berry” and the plant tsuni ela—“brown bear’s spruce bough.”

Description: An evergreen shrub with shape-changing versatility. It can sprawl in shoulder-high mats, salute the sun as a 50-foot-tall columnar tree, or, shrink into a lowly dwarf shrub in the arid tundra. No matter, it can live for 170 years. Bark: Reddish-brown, thin and scaly, it falls off in strips. Leaves: Needle-like at first, turning into blunt scales with age; grow in whorls of three.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The "Berry" With a Bite

    The first time I encountered common juniper (Juniperus communis),it was as a prickly bedfellow in a peat bog. I’d been bushwhacking up a stream, swatting at no see ums, when I broke into a clearing of indescribable beauty. Velvet pillows of moss and bonsai shore pine framed a pool of yellow pond lilies reflecting blue sky. Claude Monet could have painted his famous Water-Lily Pond canvases in this wilderness Eden. I lay down on the inviting moss to admire the view. A moment later I jumped upright again.

    I’d been bitten—or so I thought. I checked the impression where my back lay for a spider or centipede. Finding nothing, I pressed my palm into the culprit spot. Immediately a porcupine prickle pressed back. Tendrils of juniper boughs had worked themselves into the moist fissures under the moss from a nearby bush. Or maybe the moss overtook the juniper? Either way, I’d lain down on an invisible pincushion. Appropriately, the people of Haida Gwai called this aromatic shrub “swamp boughs” because it thrives in bogs.