Saturday, July 21, 2012

Regal Gooseberry Jam

Today I picked 4 pounds of dead ripe gooseberries from my bush: not rosy red, but the deeper red colour of venous blood from a cyanosed patient! Picking gooseberries is hard work; avoiding the heavy thorns with a glove on the left hand to control the branch; picking selectively since the berries ripen to sweetness intermittantly over a month. Even the dead ripe need a tug since the berries rarely drop.I interim prune with the secateur as I pick, since the bush is huge and to get to its center without tearing your shirt is the aim. The goose berry bush is next to a patch of red currants which I now leave on the bushes as a stalking horse for the birds, as currants act as a magnet. Since the skin of the gooseberry is tough and the armed branches are formidable, the birds leave them alone for an easier target.I spent an hour or so after the pick today removing the occasional stem and the constant frass,( the remains of the flower). This is a tedious task. The next step was to freeze them in a Ziplock bag for preparation for jam. The freezing allows the juices to run more freely with cooking and it requires less water to be added. At jamming time the berries are softened in the microwave with enough water to minimally cover and then mashed. Sugar is added, equal parts, and cooked with the berry mash until the jelpoint. Do not puree since the sweetened and cooked berry skin is an essential feature of the jam. If anyone thinks it is madness to go to all this work for a little jam it is not. It is a rare essence, not easily obtained and a high style of product, certainly ego satisfying. As is with people of a regal nature, their presence, tough skinned and prickly as gooseberry, makes the work of those who choose to bring their sweetness and excellence to the fore, much more satisfying since we labour in order to please. I love white bread and gooseberry jam, but sweet accompaniments to meat have also been tested and toasted over the centuries. Crabapple and chicken: apple sauce and pork: cranberry and turkey: mint and lamb: Montmorency cherries and game: but lapin and gooseberry: they rock!

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