Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served.
Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and
that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
Juniper Berries - Baie de Genièvre on French Menus. Berries in France I.
Baie de Genièvre, Genièvre or Genévrier Commune
Juniper berries. from Behind the French Menu by Bryan Newman
Juniper berries are not really berries; the so-called berries that we use in the kitchen are the tasty, dried, sour, blue-black, pods or cones that contain the juniper seeds; fresh
juniper pods are only rarely seen as they need two years to ripen. The dried juniper
pods are used for their flavor, like a herb, and they are readily available; the dried pods keep for a long time and will be found in every French kitchen. Despite these berries really being pods they will be on menus as berries and so I will mostly call them berries in this post.
Photograph courtesy of richardcjones
juniper are evergreen bushes from the conifer family and grow wild all over
dried pod is behind the flavor in hundreds of sauces, pastries, and of course gin.
Juniperus communis, the most often seen European juniper tree and berry.
French menus you will have a wide variety of dishes flavored with juniper:
de Saumon au Chou Alsacien, Beurre Blanc aux Baies de Genièvre – A
thick cut of salmon served
with a beurre blanc sauce, a white butter sauce, flavored with juniper
berries. Accompanying this is the very special quintal d'Alsace
cabbage; a cabbage hybrid that may grow
to six or more kilos; however, most are picked when quite small, around four kilos!
Médaillons de Chamois aux Baies de Genièvre - Round
cuts of steak from a young mountain goat from the Alps, also called the mountain antelope, flavored
with juniper berries. The close cousin of this mountain goat is called the isard or izard and found in the Pyrenees where it will be on menus with the same recipes.
with its strong flavor is traditionally used with game dishes; wild game often
has a strong flavor and the juniper provides some competition. Cuts like the menu item above cannot come from
an adult as steaks would be far too stringy; the meat from adults will be
marinated in wine, flavored with juniper and then stewed.
Cotes de Sanglier à la St. Hubert– Chops from a wild boar prepared in the manner of Saint Hubert.
St Hubert (656-727) is the Belgian
patron Saint of the Belgian Ardennes region and hunters. The hunters in the French Ardennes, across the border,have similar recipes and are also happy to have St. Hubert look after them. In season, game dishes are on the menus across the whole Ardennes; this dish and many other St. Hubert dishes, all made with
wild game, will be flavored with juniper berries. The French département
of Ardennes is in the région of Champagne-Ardennes; when you are there I
am sure you know what you will be expected to drink for lunch and dinner, and perhaps for breakfast as well.
Jambon de Luxeuil or
Jambon de Luxeuil Les Bains -This is a cured and smoked ham produced around the spa town of
Luxeuil-les-Bains in the north of the département of Haute-Saône
in the Franche-Comte. The ham is
marinated in salt and juniper berries and then lightly smoked before being hung
for at least nine months. Luxeuil-les-Bains
is close to the town of Fougerolles where they make
some of France’s finest kirsch, cherry, liquor,so they do not have to work with juniper berries all day and drink gin when they leave work.
Les Rognons de Veau aux Baies de Genévrier Flambés au Genièvre – Veal kidneys prepared with juniper berries and served flambéed with gin.
La Terrine de Lapereau aux Baies de Genévrier – A hare pate flavored with juniper berries.
Tournedos de Magret de
Canard Réduction au Quinoa et Genévrier – Thick cuts of duck breast served with a sauce made with the natural cooking
liquids along with quinoa and juniper berries.
The juniper berry or pod. (German - wacholder), (Italian - ginepr),
(Spanish - enebro). (Provençal - genèbre),(Latin
- juniperus communis).
Even squirrels like juniper berries/pods.
Photograph courtesy of Rein Rache .
Behind gin’s popularity as a
beverage is the physician Franciscus Sylvius (1614 –
1672); he was a respected Dutch doctor who recommended mixing juniper pods with alcohol along with other
herbs that were sold in pharmacies for treating gallstones, gout and more. The Dutch
names for gin are jenever, junever and genièvre. Since Franciscus Sylvius put the drink on the market the dutch distilleries have never looked back, though how many people have been cured by drinking large quantities of gin is an investigation still in progress.
Photograph courtesy of Soenarko
While the English new about gin long before the Dutch William of
Orange and his wife, Mary became King
and Queen of England, Ireland and Scotland in 1689, its popularity grew with
the Dutch influence. Within 60 years of William and Mary arriving in England
the country was swamped with cheap unlicensed gin shops and gin had become the
drink of the poor, most of the gin sold did not even contain any real juniper flavoring.
universally get the credit for creating gin and the English universally take
the credit for drinking the most gin per capita. The British excused their unlimited consumption of gin when they ruled
India; then they drank gin and tonic, with added quinine in the tonic so they could say that gin was part of the fight against malaria.