Thursday, December 3, 2009

Surprising Side Dish: Brussels Sprouts with Apples & Juniper

For years, I took in the flavor of juniper berries primarily through my consumption of gin and tonics.  But, lately, the balance is shifting. And I've begun to look for new ways to use the flavor of juniper in my cooking.

At first I was afraid that anything I made with juniper would end up tasting of pine needles.  But, I've learned that that simply isn't so. While the juniper berry is a bit resinous in its flavor, it actually bears a pleasant tart-sweet flavor which pairs brilliantly with a number of other ingredients, including apples, bacon, duck, venison, and pork.

It's affinity for apples explains why this side dish, which we ate with our Thanksgiving dinner, was so fabulous.

First, you'll need a pound of fresh brussels sprouts -- cleaned and trimmed -- and one tart apple.

You'll also need a couple of teaspoons of juniper berries.  They're available through Penzey's Spices online, if you don't have a local source.
Core the apple and chop it into bite-sized pieces. Prepare the brussels sprouts by cutting a small "X" in the bottom end of each (this helps the brussels sprouts to cook evenly). And crush the juniper berries with a mortar and pestle, or by smashing with the side of a knife.

Place about 2/3 cup of apple juice in the bottom of a large skillet and bring the juice to a boil.  Add the brussels sprouts, apples, and juniper.  Season with salt & pepper.

Simmer gently, uncovered, for about 5 minutes or until the brussels sprouts are tender.

This is decidedly one of the most unusual side dishes we've ever tried; but, it's positively delicious. The apple flavor tames the cabbagey tendency of the brussels sprouts and the juniper berries lend a sweet, almost floral quality to the dish.

Definitely one to try the next time you're looking for a new way with brussels sprouts!

Recipe: Brussels Sprouts with Apple and Juniper

Random Factoid:

Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs gives some insight into the herb's long-standing reputation as a protective element:  "The plant's pungent aroma has long recommended it for driving away evil spirits and disease. Legend has it that juniper planted beside the front door will keep out witches; the only way for a witch to get past the plant was by correctly counting its needles."

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  1. I've never cooked with Juniper berries but you've paired it with two of my favorite things so I'm intrigued!

  2. I've never used Juniper berries. Sounds great with brussels sprouts.

  3. Yummy recipe, thanks. Sounds really tasty. I usually steam my sprouts with carrots, to add some sweetness. I'll have to try your recipe.

  4. I never experienced juniper berries. Well lets say I never cooked with them but I do remember seeing them on an evergreen. Now I am inclined try them.

  5. Hmm, I never cooked with juniper berries. The addition of apple is interesting too! But I have a "thing" against boiling brussels sprouts. I prefer them roasted. I wonder if I can roast them with the other ingredeints...

  6. Never had juniper berries. Sounds interesting, especially with the sprouts!

  7. Nurit -
    You might be onto something with the concept of roasting here... you'd miss out on the apple juice aspect (which soaks into the sprouts a bit)... but the other elements would all be there. Let me know if you try it!

  8. Very strangely in this household we love brussels sprouts, I also love gin and tonic - but have never cooked with juniper berries. This sounds really good, can't wait to try it!

  9. oh I have juniper berries and never knew what to do with them, I love brussels sprouts, can't wait to try this

  10. I don't think I know what juniper berries taste like, but I'll trust you on this one.

  11. This idea sounds good but I am worried about finding the juniper at my grocery store. But I am going to check it out because I love the apple flavor combonation.
    My favorite way to cook Brussels is to roll them in a bowl with olive oil and garlic and crushed rosemary, bake them on a sheet with a heavy sprinkle of parmasan cheese. This works on the BQ too.

  12. I too prefer the sprouts roasted but with this recipe i do that at the end...follow the recipe and then give them a quick roast to brown/carmelize the outside leaves.


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