Monday, 15 September 2014

Gathering Wild Juniper Berries

I used my last juniper berries in a batch of boar bourguignon, but since juniper grows wild on every limestone slope here it is not a problem. Simply go out and pick some more.

European Juniper Juniperus communis, with berries in different stages of maturity.
Juniper has berries at all stages of development all year round, so you can usually find some ripe ones to pick. The best time is autumn though, when a lot of berries are ripe, but haven't been eaten yet by hungry wildlife over winter. Juniper is viciously prickly, so if you are organised you will have remembered to take a bucket and thornproof gloves on your foraging mission (or if you are like me you just stop on the way home from some other errand and pick a few with your bare hands and bad language).

Juniper scrub on the Eperon Barré de Murat. Sheep are traditionally grazed on these steep limestone sites, and juniper is one of the few plants they won't eat, so it proliferates.
You need to pick berries that are black and ideally slightly wrinkled looking. They impart a spicy herby flavour to casseroles and dry salt cures for pork or duck and they are best if crushed a bit to release their flavours before putting in the mix.
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A la cuisine hier: Coq au vin, made not with a rooster but a hen from a local small scale producer, some left over Beaujolais, our aged orchard neighbour's oxheart tomatoes and our own homegrown little onions. I also took the opportunity to make a big batch of chicken stock from the carcass and some extra chicken necks. I'm always amazed by how much meat there is on a chicken neck if you take the time to pick it off -- which I did, since cooked shredded chicken meat is always useful to have on hand.
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Au jardin hier: More 'hay' raked into windrows. The resident hare is grateful we left an area unmowed, as it was resting up in there yesterday. Of course I only noticed it because it shot off into the neighbouring orchard once I was within a few metres of it. 

More grapes and pears picked.

1 comment:

  1. I like the sound (!) of your coq au vin or poulet au beaujolais, with the tomatoes. As for chicken necks, I agree as to the good amount of meat you can get off of them after they are cooked. Callie rhe collie, fortunately for her, gets the pickings from chicken carcasses and necks around here. At least we get the broth.

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