Today’s berry, bubbling in the saucepan: gooseberries
Gooseberries. Finally, we have enough to “do” something with them, after three years of off/on harvests, so I grabbed a bowl yesterday and headed outside. “Do you want to pick the gooseberries with me?” I asked my daughter. “Nah, too prickly. Can I pick the strawberries instead?” Smart child.
I get all misty when I think about gooseberries. A green variety adorned our wedding cake, they and some golden raspberries and some very red currants. The cake probably had no flour in it but was made instead with almond flour, honey, and lots of egg whites. It was a perfect summer cake, perfect for me that is, an avowed cake-hater, especially of the wedding variety.
But today I made four pints of jam. Because I am usually terribly time-crunched and have no patience to tip and tail these things, what I do with little fruits like these is cook them down and run them through the fine sieve on my food mill. The skins and those nasty pointy stems are left behind, and I measure out the resulting juice and pulp and figure out how much sugar and pectin is required to make a small batch of jam. I cook down other seedy fruits the same way: damson plums, cherries and those aronia berries have seeds too small to reach but (in some instances) too vulnerable to the food mill’s crushing turns so they instead go into a chinois that has a pestle to wring the juice from the pulp. It sounds like I might have a crowded kitchen and it is true, I do, but the chinois does come in handy.
I just adore fruit, and fruit jam is one way to preserve all this bounty. I will mention a few other ways in some following posts.
very similar techniques used here, El: hand cranked food mill, fine-meshed sieve (no proper chinois, I am afraid) and butter muslin cheese cloth (and a jelly bag).
Now, you know, I do have to ask those kind of questions: what cultivar of gooseberry is that? I am very happy with my currants (red & white), but gooseberry has been underwhelming. To be fair, I only have only one bush, which I finally planted this spring after letting it languish in a pot for years, so it’s hard to totally blame the plant… but still, not the revelation I was almost expecting after reading all those English descriptions….
Hi Sylvie: I believe they’re Jahn’s Prairie but I could be wrong. My aronia friend has some really fat-berried plants he said he’d clone for me and I am rather looking forward to that, as the ones I have are pretty stingy, although my neglect could be a part of that too. But the chinois. I will admit my husband picked it up for me for $4 at a garage sale; he’s great that way. Mine is ancient, and it’s what I use to make vichyssoise and applesauce (though not at the same time of course!); it keeps the fibers in its bowl.
Nice picture. Our wedding cake was made by my aunt, an accomplished, but decidedly not professional. Her lemon cake is to die for, with lemon curd between the layers. Iced just with whipped cream and topped with late raspberries and nasturtiums. Very suited to our country wedding. Tasted fabulous too.
Yesterday, I made apricot jam. My apricot trees aren’t bearing yet, these I got from a friend’s tree. This is the second time I’ve tried making my own jam, last year at the very end of wild blackberry season I decided to make use of the free berries and made my first attempt at jam with really great results. I was of course intensely intimidated. Now I see how really easy it is. Blackberries are being monitored, daily! I did get a chinios….a cheap copy of one, it worked great.
oh, interesting, El. I followed the link: I would have called that black currant if the name was not there. I always thought of gooseberries as green or tanned. Learn something new every day!
All these years and I’ve only heard of gooseberries, never tried them. I wouldn’t be able to do the jam, what with the sugar. But it looks terrific.
Ed, my buddy of the aronia berries is diabetic, and he grows gobs of gooseberries because the glycemic index in these things doesn’t bug him. He eats them a lot. But yeah, my jams are pretty sugar-filled, it is true…with Pomona pectin, one should be able to just go ahead and make simple sugar-free berry preserves. But I hear you. Just keep your eye out if you see them at your farmers’ markets; they’re nicely tart.
I’ve ordered some Pomona pectin and can’t wait to start with some fruit preservation with those recipes- maybe this weekend. Looking forward to reading about more ways to preserve fruit – that’s something that’s a goal for me this summer.
Sylvie, I had some of the jam this morning and it was tasty, kind of tart…which I like, as it makes your tongue wake up! Yeah the photo on the link I sent you is certainly not what the gooseberries look like as you can see. I appreciate these things because they ripen all at once.
Kate, that cake sounds great! I am huge on lemons and lemon curd but alas they don’t grow here so they’re simply a rare treat for me. I like the idea of a country wedding. Ours was a city affair, and it was a fun three-day gathering with lots of food and barbecue and dancing, city and country.
Petunia, good for you!!! Apricot is one of my favorite jams. It is easy, isn’t it? It’s simply cooking, just more of it than usual.
Thanks, Ed. After being so fresh-fruit deprived (we ate our last apple in March) these fruits are quite welcomed in this house. But then again so is jam and frozen stuff and applesauce the other time of the year…it’s just a fun ride.
MC, stay tuned. I’m doing some syrups tonight. Glad to hear you found a source for Pomona pectin.