For the week-end update and the January’s wrap up, I’ve collected some interesting data about the Food Trends for 2015. From the Food Channel to Better Homes & Gardens to Yahoo Food and many other sources, the experts and chefs agree on the following common food trends for 2015:
However, that would pretty much limit my knowledge of its use. Seeing that quantity of unbelievably fragrant freshly foraged juniper berries was kind of a revelation to me. I wanted to know what else can be done with them and start experimenting right away.
Which is how the idea of using them in the rub came first and I made this little ham back in September. WHOA! It worked better than I expected. I’m usually not a big fan of ham, reserving it to special occasions only, but this one came out really outstanding.
What a complex yet subtle flavor touch to the roasted ham in crust! It made me think of Christmas right away and so I reserved this recipe and juniper berries (both dried and frozen) for the winter holidays, and here I’m sharing it with you today.
- Make spirits and bitters: primarily gin by adding juniper berries to vodka along with bunch of other botanicals (this DIY Gin recipe works great for me)
- Infuse vinegars (bruise the berries and use this easy method): vinegars bring out the citrus element of the berries
- Infuse hot drinks: teas, tisanes, mulled wine, etc. with the enhanced piney juniper berries flavor (have also great medicinal effect on upset stomach, urinary tract infections, bloating, heartburn, etc.)
- Infuse desserts, fillings, gels, creams and frostings
- Infuse salt or sugar
- Use in brines for: brisket, turkey, pork, chicken or fish as flavor enhancer
- Add to game or venison stews and terrines (wild boar, hare, deer, etc.), as well as pork
- Add to dressings and vinaigrette: works well with olive oil, apple cider or balsamic vinegar, horseradish, mustard, mayonnaise, ginger and garlic
- Add to sauces and gravies: i.e. Madeira, White wine, Cranberry sauce, etc. and/or thickening dripping liquids into sauces
- Flavor cabbage stews (German, Polish style Bigos, etc.) along with allspice berries and peppercorns
- Use in fermenting veggies (sauerkraut, pickles, etc.): works as stabilizer, adds crunch and flavor
- Add to bird/meat stuffing
- Rub in curing meats (along with other spices) to make pancetta, pastrami, smoked meat, ham, game, etc.
- Add to stocks and soups included in bouquet garni: adds nutty-woodsy notes of flavor
- Add to pasta, potato, couscous or polenta water
- Recycle leftovers jams into glaze by mixing them with water/syrup infused with juniper berries.
Juniper berries are not exactly berries, but the tiny pine cones of the shrub that are so tightly clenched they look like blue-purple berries. They have strong tart, coniferous flavor with a hint of citrus and very small amount is used in particular recipes. If you remember, in one of the episodes of the fantastic comedy Bedazzled (with Brendan Frazer and Elizabeth Hurley) the major character is explaining at some point that the word `Gin’ is short for the French genievre or the Dutch jenever, both of which mean juniper, the main flavor in gin. Juniper berries have been used since ancient times and were especially popular in Greece, Rome and Egypt as medical remedy, to flavor dishes, or be used for spiritual rituals (some have been even found in the tomb of King Tut).
Back to our Christmas ham: this is a wonderful, festive, traditional Quebec recipe for frugal (and beyond) holidays. It keeps the meat juicy, yet well done. The juniper berries not only add flavor, but work as a natural anti-bloating agent. The juniper-mustard flavored pastry crust helps the dish taste and look elegant and exquisite.
Simply put: it’s a super easy, convenient and impressive centerpiece dish on a budget for many occasions. I do hope you will try it and like it and get back to me with your comments.
Final note: juniper berries are not hard to find on-line or in whole food/organic stores and only a small quantity is used in the recipe. The initial recipe however didn’t have juniper berries in it, so if you can’t get a hold of juniper berries, feel free to substitute with a tablespoon of crushed fennel seeds or dried tarragon.
Happy Holidays and Enjoy Your Cooking!
This berry tart bustling with freshness and happy summer flavors is a real catch when you are up to something special. Not only it will accompany any party table with unique charm, it is remarkably simple in preparation. The combination of fresh berries, puff pastry and roasted almonds in this tart make a totally out of this world snack, appetizer, side course or dessert, not to mention that it goes hand in hand with array of great cheeses, wine and even champagne.
There are times in our lives when we feel the magic shift has just taken place, except it’s a brief thing and like anything ‘happy’ when such moments arrive all you can do is blurt out ‘wow, thank you’ while, in fact, you are thinking: ‘Wait a sec, what’s going on here? Am I in some kind of a movie?’ You are so busy worrying that instead of acknowledging the obvious you don’t know whether to pinch yourself or start spinning around and pretending you are a Wonder Woman. Because, all you do know, it has been one of your wildest dreams and now you feel it’s too good to be true. Only when back home you are finally convinced that it was you and your effort that just got rewarded and your life will never be the same. End of story. You can exhale, overwhelmingly happy, and have a good laugh at yourself for being so stressed. Naturally, you celebrate with your beloved ones with champagne and something exquisite and memorable because things like that are much better remembered in retrospect.
Well, in my state of excitement I would play the jazz flute of destiny if I could, but I made this amazing Fresh Berry Tart instead (following my mom’s spur of the moment recipe) with fresh currants, gooseberries, grapes, yellow plums, rhubarb and wine jelly. What a great partner for any parte-e-e!
Although it looks promisingly fattening, fear not, the amount of sugar in it is minimal and the puff pastry open crust is not exaggerated, but gives that freshly baked state of crisp and buttery flakiness you are looking for in the high-end desserts. The runny berries center, both sour and rich, gives an aromatic citrusy tang with a backdrop of nuttiness from roasted almonds – simply irresistible! Watch the simple steps and follow the recipe below:
Even if the craft of the pastry chef is by necessity highly precise, you can vary the seasonal fruits in this tart, from the super-juicy ones, to more dry by adding more or less jelly and water into the syrup. Try the wine jelly (red or white) instead of the berry for once, it adds an interesting spike in flavor and expands the variety of wines you can take with the tart.
The other important ingredients besides the berries, jelly and pastry dough are:
Crumbs, which can be Panko, Graham or semi-salted cracker crumbs depending on whether you like it sweet, semi-sweet or salty-sweet.
Roasted slivered almonds and Demerara sugar or (my preferred) cracked or flaked maple sugar.
The number of dishes that can partner with this tart is quite astonishing: from snack and appetizer in tapas or aperitif bar, to BBQ red meats, to desserts with assorted cheeses – it will be a hit in any given combination.
Finally, it is an awesome way to eat the freshly collected berries from your garden, forest, farm or local market.
Call it happy endings, or beginnings or just a HAPPY tart, ultimately, everyone deserves to share a bit of this happiness. Major tip: serve it freshly baked and you will be astonished how many of your guests will take a second piece. So worth an effort, you won’t regret! T.
This time is was a haddock (previously I also salt-crusted successfully white fish, tilapia, perch and walleye). Haddock is great for the recipe: the flavors are enhanced and there is some smokiness added to the taste. We had it with salsa verde and fingerling potatoes and everyone loved the tender savory fillets sprinkled with parsley and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.