Gooseberry Jam

I have lived in my home for just over a year now and have been loving every minute of it.  I have plenty of space and neighbors who aren't at all freaked out by the dead animal carcasses I have brought home.  My favorite thing about my house is the neighbor hood that it is located in.  I have two lakes within walking distance and a public park that has a large wooded area with walking trails that run through it.  I have been able to catch fish in the lakes and have seen several large snapping turtles that will find their way into a soup pot at some point.   I have also been able to find berries, wild raspberries and gooseberries are all along the walking trails.

I don't have a lot of free time to go out into the woods and forage for wild edibles, so finding things close to home is kind of a big deal to me.  When I first notice the gooseberries I got all giddy and excited to make jam.   Everybody I have talked to told me that gooseberries were very tart  and that I would need a lot of sugar to make them edible.  My mother told me that her grandmother used to make gooseberry pies but you needed two scoops of ice cream with each piece just to cut the tartness of it.  

I have been keeping my eye on the gooseberry plants for about a month now and last week when I was on a walk with the family I noticed the berries were big enough to pick.  I took my daughter back out to the park and we picked just over two pounds of gooseberries.  I knew that I wanted to make a jam but I also wanted to make something else with them so I could see how they tasted in different forms.  After picking them you need to cut the tips and tails of the berries, this is the most time consuming part but I found that If you use a toe nail clipper to snip off the tips and tails it goes faster and does a better job.  Once that was done I made a gooseberry crumble and 2 half pints of jam.

For the crumble I cooked the tossed the berries with cane syrup and a little Glug, which is a Swedish liquor that is heaven spiced with cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and almonds.  For the topping I mixed flour, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and rolled oats and baked it in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  It was fantastic and only needed one scoop of ice cream to help with the tartness.  The tartness sort of reminded me of rhubarb and was very pleasant and delicious.

For the jam I looked all over trying to find a recipe that I wanted to try and finally found on In Paul Virant's new book, The Preservation Kitchen, what I learned in the book was that gooseberries are naturally high in pectin so you don't have to use any extra you just have to simmer the berries  at 212 degrees for fifteen minutes to release all the pectin.  The book also said that mixing in vanilla bean would help cut the tart flavor of the berries.  This jam was really simple and easy to make just the berries, sugar and lemon juice simmered for 15 minutes and then stir in the vanilla.  The Jam has a brilliant flavor and the vanilla does mellow the tartness but doesn't eliminate it.  I am absolutely sold on gooseberries and am going to have to go back to the park and pick some more.  In Chef Virant's book he has a recipe for a gooseberry smash which is a cocktail made with the jam some limes, rum and ginger beer.  I can't wait to try it and anything else I can make, I might try gooseberry Ice cream or maybe a cardamom ice cream with gooseberry topping or maybe both.