I’m obviously going through a green phase. Looking back on recent posts I can see a lot of green. Perhaps it’s a reaction to Toronto’s stifling heat and humidity? Green is such a cooling colour. This photo of my gooseberry bush is a few weeks old. I have stripped it of all its fruit because I like my gooseberries tart. If you leave the fruit on the bush it will start to turn a maroon colour and loose its acidity. Gooseberries are not a giving fruit; the thorns are large, sharp and numerous and it’s not a fruit you eat straight from the bush, their sharp edge needs to be tempered with sugar.
One of my favourite ways to eat gooseberries is in pie. but you have to top and tail the berries first, a tedious task. Use a lard pastry and if you need a recipe see here. Sometimes I make fool, cooked gooseberry purée stirred into whipped cream. That way I can skip the topping and tailing simply passing as the cooked berries through a food mill. With my harvest of berries I spent several evenings watching television, to prepare all my berries. I made a pie, and froze the rest. Gooseberries freeze very well. Then I discovered there were still some berries that I’d missed in the deeper reaches of my bush. So despite the heat, I put on a long sleeved shirt and wrestled them into my bowl. I’d had it with topping and tailing so my first thought was to turn them into ice cream. However, it seems to be my summer of ices so I went against my natural instinct and made gooseberry ice instead.
Now if you have never cooked gooseberries, you may not know that they turn pink when they are cooked, yes even the green ones. The ice is simple – 500g of berries gently simmered with 250 ml water until very soft. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and stir in 100g sugar until dissolved. Chill then churn. The resulting ice is a pretty pink and divinely tart and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer’s night.
Here is a close up shot elderberries. This is the first year I’ve seen them in the farmer’s market so I snatched them up. In the spring I am forever searching for elderberry blossoms to cook with my gooseberries so I asked the grower selling them if he sold the blossoms in the spring.
“No”, he said.
“I just need a few to go with my gooseberries, ” I replied.
“No”, was the answer again.
Perhaps he thinks if he sells me a few blossoms he won’t have any fruit?
A late summer, early autumn berry, they are larger than a red currant and smaller than pea. They grow in clusters like grapes and are dark purple and stain everything they touch. According to my Oxford Companion to Food, they are not good raw as “they contain small amounts of a poisonous alkaloid, and have a sickly, unpleasant smell and taste.”
Well I didn’t notice a bad smell or taste, and yes I ate some, before I read the OCF, and I am still here. I don’t recommend it, they’re not brilliant raw and they could do you harm. If like me you missed chemistry at school check out alkaloids here.
I just had a small container of them; so I made syrup following the recipe on David Lebovitz’s blog.
Of course I didn’t have that many elderberries but this is the advantage of kitchen scales. I weighed the berries after I’d removed them from the stalks, not as hard as David makes it out to be, but I had less berries to pick over and I hadn’t harvested my own.
Then I added the same weight of water and when they were cooked, used half their original weight in sugar. While the syrup looks a lot like cassis, blackcurrant syrup, but it has its unique taste that matches perfectly with peaches. So far I’ve added a few spoonfuls to the warm syrup after poaching peaches and I poured it over my blackberries and the few homegrown figs I’ve harvested before the squirrel. More about Jennifer vs the squirrel in another post.
I’ve included this photo to give you an idea of the colour. In the glass jar, now residing in my refrigerator, the colour is so dense that no light can pass through and it is just an inky purple. Next time if I can buy more I may try a peach and elderberry pie, or even elderberry wine.
It was my husband who suggested gooseberry ice cream. Can’t think why I hadn’t thought of it before, I am always looking for other ways to use my gooseberries. Not enough to bother with jam, plus I don’t eat much jam only marmalade so I end up freezing my excess berries and then forgetting about them.
I cooked up about 900 g/2 lbs of berries with about 100g / 1/2 cup sugar and when they were soft I pushed them through a sieve and let it cool.
I made a custard base yesterday
250 ml each of whole milk and whipping cream just bought to a boil.
I whisked together 4 egg yolks, 65 g / 1/3 cup sugar and a pinch of sea salt until light. Whisk in the cream mixture and return to a clean pan and cook over medium heat stirring until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Then strained the custard into bowl set in a larger bowl filled with ice and a little water to cool the custard quickly. As I stirred the custard to cool it I added the chilled gooseberry purée and checked the sweetness. I always refrigerate my ice cream mixtures overnight so the flavours can blend. This morning I poured it into my ice cream maker and churned it while checking out the scenery on this stage of Le Tour de France.Then I put into my freezer to firm up. Here it is –
There were lots of gooseberries at the market this morning and at $5 a small box I should have opened my own stand! Perhaps gooseberries are finally catching on here, but I am not sure. Most people, even expert foodies, don’t know what to do with them. However, one of the great things about food is that there is always something new to learn. I topped and tailed my first harvest while watching the BBC news although 30 minutes it wasn’t long enough and I found myself working right through the French news too. So be warned, it will take you a good hour to do 1 kg of gooseberries.
Gooseberries keep well in the refrigerator and also freeze well. I found some in the bottom of my freezer that I’d frozen last year, about 450 g so I put them in a frying pan added 50 g (1/4 cup) of sugar and cooked them gently and till they became very soft. Then I rubbed them through a sieve, I’d been lazy last year and frozen them straight from the bush. This yielded about 250 ml of smooth puree that I’ll turn into gooseberry fool by mixing it with about 175 ml of whipping cream, whipped. Check the tartness of your fruit, mine need a little more sweetness so I added some icing sugar, which thickened the puree too. Next on the gooseberry recipe list is ice cream.
Anton Chekhov also loved gooseberries –
“And he would dream of garden-walls, flowers, fruits, nests, carp in the pond, don’t you know, and all the rest of it. These fantasies of his used to vary according to the advertisements he found, but somehow there was always a gooseberry-bush in every one. Not a house, not a romantic spot could he imagine without its gooseberry-bush”.