Juniper is a very special spice with a flavour and aroma that are quite unique and normally associated with gin and with sauerkraut.
Juniper leaves and cones
Dried juniper cones (often incorrectly referred to as "berries")
Several species of the genus juniperus grow virtually everywhere in temperate Europe and Asia.
The berry-like cones, which take two years to mature.
Cupressaceae (cypress family).
Aromatic with a sweet accent similar to that of the South American pink pepper.
The classical Latin name of that plant iuniperus and its botanical genus derivative name juniperus may possibly be a Celtic loan. Names of juniper in several European languages, especially Romance languages, derive from that name, e.g. English "juniper", Dutch jeneverbes, Italian ginepro, Spanish enebro, Romanian ienupăr and Hebrew juniper. In English, the French loan juniper supplanted the Old English name of that plant, cwicbēam (modern quickbeam) "life-tree", which was also used for rowan or mountain ash, sorbus aucuparia. The species name communis is a slightly less pejorative Latin term for "common" than the alternative and more frequently used name vulgaris.
The German name wacholder (of which machandel is a Northern variant) contains a stem which might be related to wachsen "grow" (cf. English "wax" meaning "increase" but is probably derived from the Indo-European root weg "weave" or "web" (cf. English "veil", "wick") since its branches have been used for weaving. The same root also lies behind English "wax" as in "beeswax".
The Germanic tree suffix -der, as in wacholder, appears in several other German plant names. At root is the Indo-European deru with the meaning "tree, particularly oak" and the derived meaning "strong", "firm" or "reliable". This is a very prominent root found in most Indo-European languages (Sanskrit darvi, Farsi dar, Greek drys, Russian derevo and Latvian darva all refer to wood and Latin durus, Lithuanian drūtas and Old English trum refer to strength. Modern English examples include "tree", "tray", "tar", "true" and "trust".
Juniper is an important spice in many European cuisines, especially in Alpine regions where juniper grows abundantly. It is the only example of a spice in the botanic group coniferae and also one of the few examples of spices from cold climatic regions, although the best quality originates in Southern Europe.
Juniper is much used in the traditional cuisine of Central Europe, e.g. for the Southern German specialty sauerkraut. For its preparation, fresh cabbage is preserved by lactic fermentation and seasoned with juniper, caraway and bay leaves. The taste then develops during aging in large wooden barrels. Sauerkraut can be eaten raw as a salad, or be cooked or fried (often together with small cubes of smoked ham or bacon) to be served as a side dish. Another preparation is to stuff dumplings with it.
Juniper's main application is meat and it is sometimes considered indispensable for venison, combined with black pepper, marjoram and laurel berries. Juniper berries, properly called cones, should be crushed immediately before use. Although juniper berries are harmless for healthy people, substantial use is discouraged for people with kidney weakness and for pregnant women.