"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

June 15, 2012

Gooseberry Jam

I've always wanted to make gooseberry jam because I love fresh gooseberries––especially lightly sugared, and folded, in fool-fashion, with homemade vanilla custard sauce and a bit of whipped cream. The pie isn't bad, either. Maybe I'm just losing my sweet tooth, but I have to say that while the results were as promised, the flavor of the jam is more like cranberry sauce (which isn't a bad thing, either, as I'm already imagining slathering the jam on pork or turkey this fall and winter). However, it's quite different than the flavor of a fresh gooseberry which is more a combination of rhubarb and a blueberry. I also used a combination of red (more ripened) and green berries and perhaps next time I shall try to use all green.

This year I bought several quarts of gooseberries from one of our local Casey County farmers. Bobbett Jascor is a garlic farmer and also raises many other unusual fruits that aren't easily found in the markets: gooseberries, currants and even a grape-sized kiwi. Having made the jam, I can understand why Bobbett just makes jelly (which she compared to cranberry sauce, too). [I should also add here that the reason I did not pick gooseberries from our own bush––for more on this wonderful fruit see "Gooseberries!" from my In the Pantry archives––is that my chickens beat me to it! Yes, they have quite a reach from the ground! And, yes, they knew when they were just perfect for eating. Glad they enjoyed them.]

These little buggers (the berries, not the hens, although there are moments) come complete with stems and tiny little hairy beards, both of which have to be removed before using (unlike blueberries where you just have to remove the invariable stems and leaves that get in the mix). Gooseberries are also a thorny (as in long and thorny) berry so I was more than happy to pay $2 a pint to have them picked for me, even if I had to do the cleaning.

Pie is good, too! This is also how I make
our rhubarb pies, more or less.
From RecipeCurio.com
So there I was last week, two days before leaving for a conference, sitting on the porch picking the beards and stems off of about 8 quarts of gooseberries! Needless to say, it was more labor intensive than I'd planned. Bobbett just makes jelly and throws everything in: I could do the same with my steam juicer next year (as I plan to do with elderberry heads in a few more weeks). But I've always been more of a jam kind of gal: I like the thickness, the flavor, the way it glops on a crumpet or slice of bread.

After that preamble, would I make this again? Probably, but not any time soon. After all, next year is another year and, as we dig into the freezer or open a jar, I will have long forgotten the time spent plucking each little stubborn stem and pinching off each little beard. And for a jam that is more like cranberry sauce, which takes about 1/10th the time from cleaning the berries to jamming them, well, I might think twice.

This is a recipe from my old standby, The Joy of Cooking, and is fairly standard for jam: 1 cup fruit to 1 cup sugar.

Gooseberry Jam

• 4 cups gooseberries (de-bearded and stemmed, lightly rinsed)
• 4 cups sugar
• 1 packet pectin (or 2 apples finely diced)

1. Mix berries and sugar (and pectin or apples).
2. Stir well on low heat until bubbly.
3. Follow directions on pectin package OR, if using apples, cook until jam "sets" on a plate.
4. Put into cleaned, sterilized glass jars and can.

NOTE: I doubled the recipe, almost, with 7 cups of berries, a scant 7 cups of sugar, 1 package of pectin, and 2 diced green apples. I ended up cooking it until set. It made 7 half-pints.

You can also freeze gooseberries as you might any other berry. Lightly wash and drain (unless you know they aren't sprayed), put onto clean, dry cookie sheets (with sides) and freeze flat. Then, when solid, you can put them right into a freezer bag or other container as the fruit has frozen individually.

You come back when you're ready!



  1. I've never tried a gooseberry before, but I've always been curious! This jam sounds easy enough that I may have to get my hands on some =)

  2. I've always wanted to taste a gooseberry! I just love the name. I hope I can find some one day.


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