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Seasons: gooseberries

Susan Jung

 

Fruit with a punch I did a double take the first time I saw gooseberries in a local market. It's the kind of fruit you read about in old-fashioned English novels, where it's made into something like gooseberry fool and served when the vicar comes to tea (OK, maybe I should start reading more modern novels).

The gooseberry is round and looks somewhat like a large green translucent grape, with lots of small edible seeds. I've only ever seen green gooseberries, but I've read that if left on the bush, the fruit turns red and the flavour changes from very tart and somewhat tannic to much sweeter. According to Cornell University's Department of Horticulture, gooseberries, which are related to currants, come from two types of cultivars: the American, which tends to be a healthier plant bearing smaller fruit, and the European, which yields larger, better-tasting fruit.

Unripe (green) gooseberries are high in pectin and are often made into jam. With most jams, I use fruit and sugar in a ratio of 4:3 by weight, but because gooseberries are so tart, I use equal amounts. Start simmering the gooseberries with a small amount of water. When the fruit starts to soften, stir in the sugar. Continue to cook the ingredients until the jam reaches the setting point. Check the consistency by putting some of the mixture on a chilled plate; if you draw your finger through the jam, it should leave a track mark. When it's ready, stir in some fresh lemon juice then ladle the hot jam into sterilised jars and cover with sterilised lids.

Gooseberry fool is made by simmering the fruit with sugar to taste - it should be quite sharp and refreshing. Crush the fruit with a potato masher then cool in the fridge. Whip some double cream until it forms soft peaks, then fold in the gooseberry mixture and serve.

 

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