Thursday, November 12, 2015

Beets and Juniper two ways (wild love)

Sometimes it's fun to experiment with an ingredient in a variety of applications: sweet, savory, salty, sour. And sometimes you find a pair of things that have such an intriguing flavor profile together that you start thinking of them as one item. I have recently been exploring the combination of beets and juniper. To me, this is a match made in heaven. The pungent spiciness of the juniper berries is mellowed by the beet's earthy sweetness. I tried a couple of variations on the theme.

I was inspired by this beautiful display at the local Farmers market and bought more beets than I knew what to do with! I dried many of them and pickled the rest.

I always think peeled beets are so beautiful. Like a basket of garnets!

Anyways, I first pickled a batch of beets. I've always loved pickled beets (probably my Polish ancestry) but wanted to make them taste a little more "northwest." I used my normal brine (see here for the recipe) but tossed a bunch of juniper berries into the jars, along with a bit of dill.

Then I canned them in a hot water bath for 12 minutes to seal. I let them age a few weeks before eating any.

Meanwhile, I made some chocolate truffles. I have always LOVED this tutorial, and followed the recipe more-or-less exactly.

Here's what I did:
I put 1 tbs. butter and 1/4 cup cream in a small saucepan, along with a handful of juniper berries. I heated it up to just below simmering, then turned off the heat and let it sit for an hour or so. Meanwhile I chopped 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate and put it in a heat-proof bowl. After an hour, I re-heated the cream mixture and poured it over the chopped chocolate and through a strainer to catch the juniper berries. I let that mixture sit (without stirring!) for 5 minutes, then stirred it well. I had it sitting on the kitchen counter and just gave it a stir every 5-10 minutes as I did the dishes until the ganache started to get stiff. Then I rolled it into balls, let them chill in the fridge, and dipped them in melted chocolate (that I had let chill to room temperature.) I rolled them in powdered beets. I made that by just grinding up my dehydrated beets in a coffee grinder. You could sift the resulting powder to get a more silky, fine consistency. I might do that next time.

And ta-da! Juniper and Beets 2 Ways:

Chocolate-juniper truffles with silky beet powder
Juniper-pickled beets with goat cheese on rye crackers

They were both said to be pretty tasty, though I don't know that the juniper flavor came through quite strong enough for my taste. As you'll remember from my juniper post, the variety of berries I am using are not as pungent as the kind you buy in the grocery store. Next time I will use more of them!

Both of these recipes would be lovely treats to give as gifts or bring to a holiday party. The festive red color of beets is certainly suited to this time of year! Enjoy. :)

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