Over the last few weeks we have been coming up with more and more elaborate ways to create delicious dishes from two gooseberry bushes that reside in the garden.
I’m always slightly baffled by gooseberries. For some reason they ended up in a “can be eaten straight off the plant” slot in my brain, alongside raspberries, strawberries and the like.
Even varieties that purport to be “dessert gooseberries” seem to take an absolute age to ripen to an edible state, and just when I think “okay, they must be ready now”, they still spring a startling acid tartness on me. I seem to be walking around with my mouth permanently puckered these days (it’s also best not to eat blackcurrants off the bush…).
On top of this, the plants are spiky (though there are thornless varieties available). No matter how carefully I place my hands, don gloves or grasp the gooseberries as if they were FabergÃ© eggs, I still end up with at least one scratch.
And as a last insult, the fruits are hairy. Admittedly more a downy fuzz than a bristly bear, but you don’t get this crap with, say, raspberries.
All in all, gooseberries are a curmudgeon of a fruit (“Hah! Want to eat me do you? We’ll see about that, you whippersnapper!”).
But (of course there is a but), they do have a really delicious flavour. They are packed with it, zinging off the tongue with a lemony appley unripe grape taste.
Gooseberry compote has been by far the most common incarnation. Stewing the fruit gently with some water and sugar, causes them to collapse from an unforgiving firmness into a soft juicy mass. Great spooned on cereal, and easy to turn into crumbles and pies.
H’s mum T even made some with the addition of elderflowers (inspired by our wild food walk). Although compote won’t keep like jam, due to the much lower sugar content, we now have a few jars sitting in the fridge awaiting use.
We’ve had gooseberry-topped cheesecake, gooseberry compote with ginger biscuits, gooseberry fool, gooseberry pie, gooseberry ice-cream, and I’ve also got some gooseberry-flavoured vodka stewing.
I found a recipe on the Jamie Oliver website forums (the site’s Ts&Cs don’t allow me to link to it, but search on “jamie oliver forum gooseberry vodka” and you should find it), and am now waiting to add some sugar. In about 6 months, I’ll let you know how it turned out!
T also made some gooseberry jam last night. We’re looking forward to stirring into porridge when the colder weather returns.
Perhaps the most exotic creation are some duck and gooseberry sausages. T has a sausage maker and has recently been experimenting with all kinds of flavour combinations. The sausages contain a mixture of duck, some pork and some cooked gooseberries. A splash of calvados went in there too. I made a toad-in-the-hole with them, and they were very good, the sharp sweet gooseberry taste marrying well with the meaty duck.
Our bushes have been picked clean now, but there are reminders in the cupboard, fridge and freezer, and the return of the gooseberry next year will be cause for celebration.