Gooseberries don’t grow in the tropics. Cape Gooseberries yes, but not the ones pictured above. So my gooseberry experience is ZIP. We inherited a gooseberry bush with our new property. Actually I thought it was a clump of dead spiky sticks until the Mother In Law mentioned it looked like a gooseberry bush. Over winter it’s dormant and it wasn’t until spring arrived that the plant started looking less of an eye sore.
When the fruit arrived I was kind of excited. Something to experiment with. But how to tell if they’re ripe? And are they supposed to taste so tart? They’re a complete and utter mystery to me. So for the last few weeks there has been lots of squeezing, tasting, spitting and well they just didn’t seem to improve. After a bit of internet research I discovered the following:- gooseberries are supposed to taste slightly revolting (well some anyway), they have a slightly laxative effect, gooseberries freeze well (so they can be picked and frozen and months later made into jam etc) and because I wanted to make jam it was best to pick them slightly unripe, more pectin.
Picking them however proved to be a bit of a challenge. Notice those NASTY POINTY THORNS? The fruit grows in amongst the thorns so there is no avoiding them! What worked for me was a glove on one hand to move the branches about and then the other hand bare gingerly picking the fruit. But I’m not sure why the gooseberry bush developed thorns to protect its fruit, because the birds aren’t even bothering to eat them. Their lack of interest had actually made me suspicious about the edibility of the fruit in the first place.
Very simple recipe that I found on the internet – equal parts sugar to fruit plus water. Wash, then top and tail the gooseberries (I also most of them in half but not necessary to do, I just found it therapeutic). I picked about 1.7kg gooseberries. Add about 300ml water (that quantity is a bit blurry as I’d altered the original recipe to suit the amount of berries I had, I just know it looked quite watery to start with but eventually thickened up). Cook until gooseberries fall apart and go mushy, then add equal quantity of sugar. Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer. I kind of let it cook for a bit until it had reduced and then did the ‘saucer in the freezer’ test when I thought it was ready. The original recipe also said to add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla at the end but I forgot, reckon it would be yummy though. Also the jam changed colour, started out green and ended up red, could mean I burnt it or could just be perfectly normal. I’ll know next time!
Verdict – it’s odd but edible. Alpha Male liked it which was unexpected, he’s usually pretty fussy. I’m going to try to find a decent gooseberry chutney recipe next.