What we call juniper berries are actually small cones — green their first year and then changing to bluish the second year. They grow throughout the southwest at elevations of at least 3,000 feet and frequently in the company of pinon pines. If you’ve ever tasted gin you know the flavor of juniper. Although gin is flavored with lots of different herbs and spices, juniper is the predominant flavor.
Chef Molly Beverly of Prescott College shared with me her recipe for Juniper Berry-Chili Rub for Meat. Molly is a real activist in the Northern Arizona food world. Not only does she keep Prescott College students fed delicious, locally sourced, organic food at the college’s Crossroads Cafe, she also participates in spreading the word on healthy eating. She teaches cooking classes, is active in Slow Food, and writes a column for a Prescott monthly. You can read some of her columns here.
Here is Chef Beverly’s recipe for Juniper Berry-Chili Rub:
Heaping ¼ cup dried juniper berries
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 large fat cloves garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
Water as needed
Using a blender, grind juniper berries. Add remaining ingredients and grind all of a paste, adding water to keep liquid moving. Rub into meat and allow to marinate, refrigerated for 4 to 6 hours. Roast, basting with excess marinade from pan.
(For more delicious recipes using juniper berries, check out my cookbook Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. I include a recipe for Artisanal Gin made with juniper berries and nine other flavorings that people have raved over.)