Following on from yesterday's post, I thought, this Friday afternoon, that I would write more about the juniper berry. Juniper is actually an evergreen tree- a conifer in the genus Juniperus in the cypress family Cupressaceae. The berries are small, wrinkled, dark brown things with a tiny stone in the centre. If crushed, they give off a lovely woody, peppery, pine-like flavour, with a bittersweet taste, and it's this very flavour which is used in the making of London Gin. Juniper also goes extremely well with game (such as pheasant and venison) and ham.
Here's a simple recipe for Ham with Juniper Berries, otherwise known as Ham in a Piquant Sauce:
Pour six tablespoons of wine vinegar into a small saucepan. Crush up eight juniper berries and add them to the vinegar. Chop up four shallots very finely and add to the vinegar and juniper berries. Turn up the flame and boil away until the vinegar has reduced and there is very little left in the saucepan.
In a larger pan, chuck in a knob of unsalted butter, and stir in some flour; to make a roux. Once the flour and butter are sufficiently cooked, stir in 300ml of chicken stock and 300ml of white wine to make a smooth, creamy sauce. Now add the juniper flavoured vinegar mixture, stir and bring to the boil. Crank down the heat and let the sauce simmer for about twenty minutes.
Sieve the sauce to get rid of the bits and pieces, turn down the heat, and carefully stir in 150ml of double cream. Check the seasoning.
In a flat oven proof dish, arrange some slices of ham. Cover the ham with the piquant sauce and cover with a lid. Heat it up in a lowish to moderate oven for about half an hour.