I hate picking gooseberries – their branches are covered with the most mean and vicious spikes. In my garden this isn’t helped by the fact that I have brambles and nettles also growing profusely around and through the gooseberry bushes. When I was little my grandma used to get me and my sister to pick gooseberries in her garden and from the bushes behind the Trust Hall in the village – I hated it – so quite why I have decided to plant so many bushes I don’t know.
Then I remember they are great for helping jam set (chuck a few in with low pectin fruits such as strawberries and cherries) and they also make a delicious jam themselves and lovely icecream. For me gooseberries are also a quintessential part of an allotment or garden along with rhubarb and runner beans (although I don’t grow runner beans as I had a bad experience with them one year and I am still sulking about it). One Friday night a week or so ago I picked just over 2kg of gooseberries, spent ages topping and tailing them (which is also a job I hate doing) in preparation for making Gooseberry and elderflower jam, and Gooseberry and elderflower icecream on Saturday.
Gooseberry and Elderflower Jam: topped and tailed gooseberries, sugar – equal weight of jam – I used 1.5 kg of both gooseberries and jam, elderflower cordial – recipe here. Add about 500g of water to the gooseberry in a jam pan and simmer for about 20 minutes until mushy. Add the sugar, slowly heat until it has dissolved and then boil until setting point is reached. Gooseberries have a lot of pectin in – I boiled and boiled my jam waiting for it to reach setting point, but actually it had set before this. So with gooseberry jam it is probably better to rely on the cold saucer method rather than a thermometer. The cold saucer method involves putting a saucer in a fridge or freezer, then when you think the jam is ready put a small spoon full on the saucer and wait a while – if it wrinkles it is at setting point. It is sets hard, as mine did, you can always add a little extra water to the pan to loosen it. I then added quite a bit of home-made elderflower cordial to the jam (about 8 tbs) – add to taste. Then put it into sterilised jam jars and sealed it.
Gooseberry and Elderflower Icecream: Gooseberry and Elderflower Icecream. I used the basic St John’s recipe for vanilla icecream as a base (see here for recipe) and then added to it a gooseberry puree brightened up with elderflower cordial. Make the icecream custard base and let it cool in the fridge. Meanwhile take 750g of gooseberries and add 5oz of sugar to them and gently cook until much. Push the gooseberry puree through a sieve to remove seeds. Once you have the puree add in some elderflower cordial – at least 8tbs maybe more, then test for sweetness – it needs to be sweeter than usual as it is going in icecream and the cold dulls the sweetness. Once the puree is cold, mix with the icecream and then churn it. This amount makes a little too much for my icecream maker so it came right to the top – not a huge problem though. I might next time half the icecream but keep the amount of gooseberry puree the same to get a more gooseberry flavour. You can serve it as is, or on the side with a gooseberry tart or best of all with a little gin poured on to to make the dessert equivalent of this cocktail
N.B. I can’t really put off picking the rest of the gooseberries much longer as they are very ripe so there will be more gooseberry recipes over the next week or so.