Glorious Gooseberries

One of my favourite fruits in the whole wide world, is the gooseberry, and little did I know when we moved here that we were, in fact, moving to a gooseberry Valhalla. There are lots of gooseberry bushes amongst the hedgerows, all of them heavily laden with lovely green gems, we have our own gooseberry bush, which is doing surprisingly well seeing as it was only planted last autumn, and one of our neighbours has a gooseberry bush which is apparently a prolific fruiter and, most importantly, they don’t like gooseberries.  Heaven.  So imagine my delight when my neighbour appeared at my door with a bag chock full of gooseberries.  Chock full of 2.5kgs of gooseberries to be exact.

In the past I’ve never really bothered cooking gooseberries, my mum and I have an unfortunate addiction to gooseberries straight off the bush (I love the skin of cooking apples too) and so between us we have always managed to scoff the fruit before it made it into any recipes.  However, even I thought eating 2.5kgs of raw gooseberries might be a little much for my constitution, and so I set about looking for something to do with them.

First off I made a couple of crumbles (one for us one for our friends – I wasn’t THAT piggy), much to the boys delight as we rarely have proper puddings and he does have a sweet tooth.  This reduced the haul somewhat but there were still a whole lot of gooseberries going on.  So I decided to make a gooseberry and elderflower jam.

I love making jams, especially from free or foraged fruits, but it’s something I’ve not done for a while.  It’s always been a summer task, and last summer we were all a little busy relocating to Cumbria, and the previous couple of years I was busy with babies.  So this was my first jam for a good while.

I used the following recipe which I got from BBC Good Food and it’s pretty straightforward.

1kg gooseberries (topped and tailed)

900g white granulated sugar

100ml elderflower cordial

300ml water

Firstly I have to say that topping and tailing gooseberries takes forever and I admit I was starting to lose the will to live by the time I finally reached the end of them.

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After that though it was much easier.  The gooseberries go into the pan with the 300ml of water and needs to be cooked over a low heat (though I got a bit impatient and turned it up) until it became a soupy gooseberry puree.

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At that point add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved, then bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes – stirring regularly to prevent it sticking and spooning off any scum.  The setting point for jam is 104 degrees, I used to have a jam thermometer but managed to smash it and so used a cooks’ digital thermometer – which seemed to do the job just as well.  You can also test the setting point by putting a saucer in the freezer and then after 10 minutes of boiling drip a bit of the jam onto the saucer, if it wrinkles when you push your finger against it – it’s set.  However I’ve had mixed results from this test (either no set, or far too set) and so prefer a thermometer as well.  Once at the magic 104 add the elderflower cordial, give it a good stir and then decant into sterilised jars – I moved the jam into a large plastic jug first and then poured it in.  Also don’t forget if putting the jam into jars when piping hot 1) it’s piping hot, don’t touch or be tempted to taste and 2) the jars should also be hot otherwise they will shatter.  I sterilise old jars by first washing in hot soapy water and then placing in the oven at 120 degrees to dry for about 30 minutes, and only remove them from the oven just before I’m going to put the hot jam into them.  This obviously means the glass jars are really hot too – so be careful!  Then all you need to do is leave the jam to cool.  If the jam hasn’t set by the time it’s cooled, you can always tip it back into a pan and try and boil it up again, and you’d have to resterilise the jars, but hopefully it’ll set the first time.

Our jam has set nicely, not too firm, not too soft, and has a nice pinkish hint to it.  The elderflower has really come through in the taste too.  For the recipe above we got four approx 450g jars of jam.

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I particularly like that I could use some of our homemade elderflower cordial as it made it feel that bit more special.  Which is a bonus as the plan is for a jar of this to be one of my entries for a country show in the next month or so – I will, of course, update you all on how it does.

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