Scandinavia is home to some uniquely European cooking ingredients, such as Juniper Berries. It can be hard to find these outsides of Scandinavia, so how does one substitute them well?
Common substitutes for Juniper Berries include gin, rosemary, and caraway seeds.
Juniper Berries have an extremely earthy flavor that is hard to get exactly right. The general shape of the taste is quite common though, as there are many things that share that bitter, green flavor, such as gin and rosemary.
Of course, substituting something for Juniper Berries is all about what you intended to use the Juniper Berries for in the first place. If you were using it for mead, for instance, then gin is a far better replacement than rosemary (as anyone who knows anything about either of those will certainly attest).
When To Substitute With Gin
Gin is pretty deceptive as far as alcoholic beverages go. It is to juniper berries are vanilla extract is to vanilla, meaning that it is flavored to taste like juniper berries even though it can sometimes contain none of them. However, there is also gin that is flavored completely differently. Is it still even gin then?
Luckily the differently flavored gin will usually announce itself as such. And among top gin brands, it will certainly always announce itself when it is flavored strangely, which is both nice and expected. If a top brand decided to change its flavor very suddenly and tried to label it the same as before, it would not be a top brand for long.
Gin is not only a good juniper berry replacement for when you need a stiff drink though. Any recipe that calls for juniper berries as a source of flavor can use gin in place of that flavor. Do not worry about the (strong) alcoholic content of gin, it will all be cooked out anyways.
Just remember that gin replaces the flavor, not the substance. For that, you will want…
When To Substitute With Rosemary
Rosemary is an herb known for two things: Its piney taste, and its reputation as a demon repellant. When replacing juniper berries you are going to use the first a lot more than the second, but the second is nice too.
Anyways, in addition to a similar taste, rosemary also has a similar constitution to juniper berries, meaning that it can replace it in many recipes that call for juniper berries’ texture as well as their flavor.
You will want to use a medium-sized sprig of rosemary for each teaspoon of crushed juniper berries that your recipe requires. Just remember that rosemary is an herb that grows stronger the longer the dish cooks. So, be prepared to really feel the texture of it if you overcook something soft, like a pie.
When To Substitute With Caraway Seeds
This is the least common among the options listed here because it is, in truth, the least like juniper berries. Gin mimics the flavor exactly. Rosemary has the suggestion of flavor while retaining the texture. Caraway seeds can substitute juniper berries in only the most esoteric chemical sense.
Caraway seeds are good for replacing juniper berries in sauerkraut and not much else. This is a rather narrow scope that you will probably not run into that much, but it feels worth mentioning since sauerkraut is rather popular.
Can You Import Juniper Berries?
This might sound hyperbolic, but not only can you not import juniper berries, but the fact that you cannot do that is one of the great tragedies of American liberty. Because the thing is, you, a normal American citizen, cannot import juniper berries. But special distributors of food and drink (such as grocery stores) can.
This means that it is possible for these grocery stores to stand in between you and the juniper berry farmer and decide on the farmer’s behalf how valuable the juniper berries are. It gives power to the seller of the berry, rather than the person who made it or the person who wants it. Is that capitalism? Is that freedom?
This is even more egregious when it is taken outside the scope of juniper berries. You cannot import insulin or any other medicine from other countries either. There are corporations that can, but private citizens cannot. And yet, corporations are given the rights of private citizens in regards to taxes, money spending, and speech.
There are literally different rules for different people.
Juniper berries are healthy, unique, and highly European. That can make them hard (but not impossible) to find in other parts of the world. Through some tinkering and workarounds though, you can channel their essence through the gin, rosemary, and caraway seeds if you are willing to stretch it.
Just do not go around expecting to be able to pop juniper berries into your mouth anytime soon. Until the berry is picked up by major distributors in America, it will be a while before it is easily accessed in that way.