Juniper is used to flavour gin and game dishes; crushed berries are excellent in rubs for hot-smoked salmon or braised or roasted meats – Photos: Miche Genest

In my Yukon world, ‘Juniper’ is a name that has been given to kittens and new babies; in the world of musician Donovan Leitch it is affixed to the name Jennifer in a love song to a person who lives upon a hill. The wild juniper berry grows on shrubs often found on Yukon hillsides and is so pretty it’s no surprise people want to bestow its name upon beings they love.

On any one bush you will see white, green and blue juniper berries—this is the berry in different stages of ripening. The ripe ones are blue, and if you’re picking from the common juniper (Juniperus communis) you want to be wearing thin and flexible gloves, because the needles are prickly and you will soon tire of sore fingers. The needles of spreading or creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) are not prickly. You can pick either berry year round.

The berries of both bushes are edible and have a fine, sharp, bracing flavour. Juniper is used to flavour gin and game dishes; crushed berries are excellent in rubs for hot-smoked salmon or braised or roasted meats. Sometimes I toast the berries in a dry frying pan, crush them and add them to cheddar scones, or combine them with spruce tips and Labrador tea for an energizing tisane.
Indigenous people in Canada and the Yukon have many uses for juniper berries, from cold, cough and congestion remedies to laxatives to appetite stimulants. Burning juniper branches helps to keep away the insects, and is a wonderful way to infuse grilled fish with flavour.

Lately I’ve been using the berries in aioli, that garlicky mayonnaise so good with salmon or steamed vegetables. Last year I had a series of mayonnaise fails, which has made me a more patient person. You really do have to add the oil drop by drop at first. If your mayonnaise fails, try beating in a teaspoon of hot water (Joy of Cooking method), or with your eggy whisk and a clean bowl, beat ½ tsp hot tap water very quickly and when it’s frothy add the failed mixture drop by drop (chef Samin Nosrat’s method) or, start all over again with a new yolk and add the failed mixture drop by drop (both methods). The blender or food processor method is easier on the wrist—no whisking. For best results have egg and oil at room temperature. Good luck!

Juniper Aioli

Juniper Aioli

Yield: 1 cup

Juniper Aioli (with food processor, using a whole egg)

Ingredients

  • 1 whole large egg
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp dried juniper berries, crushed to a coarse powder
  • 3 tsp lemon juice, divided
  • 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Instructions

  1. Add egg, mustard, garlic, juniper berries and 1 tsp lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor. Process until pale yellow and creamy.
  2. Combine oils in a measuring cup. With the machine running, slowly, drop by drop, add 1/3 cup of oil to the egg mixture. Tip: use a teaspoon and let the drops of oil run slowly down the feeder tube on the side closest to you—this will ensure that the oil goes into the egg mixture, and doesn’t just sit on the floor of the food processor bowl.
  3. Check periodically to make sure the egg and oil are emulsifying and thickening.
  4. Once the mixture has thickened, add the remaining 1/3 cup of oil in a thin drizzle, again, pouring down the feeder tube in such a way that the oil goes directly into the egg mixture.
  5. When all the oil has been added and the aioli is thick, dissolve the salt in 2 tsp lemon juice. Add to the processor with the lemon zest and pulse to combine.
  6. Store in a covered container in the fridge and use within three days.
Juniper Aioli (Samin Nasrat method)

Juniper Aioli (Samin Nasrat method)

Yield: 3/4 cup

In this version, based on Samin Nosrat’s method in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat you first make the mayonnaise and then add the other ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp dried juniper berries, crushed to a coarse powder
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Dampen a tea towel and coil it into a ring tightly on the counter around your bowl, tilting the bowl to one side. This allows the mixture to accumulate on the tilted side. Whisk yolk until thick and lemony yellow.
  2. Combine oils in a measuring cup. Add 1/3 cup oil to the egg yolk, drop by drop, whisking constantly. If at any point the yolk seems not to be absorbing the oil, stop adding oil and just whisk until oil is fully incorporated. Then resume, drop by drop.
  3. Once the mixture has emulsified and thickened, add the remaining 1/3 cup of oil in a thin drizzle, whisking the whole time until all the oil has been added.
  4. Dissolve salt in lemon juice and stir into mayonnaise, along with garlic, juniper, and mustard.
  5. Store in the fridge and use within three days.