I have been really lucky this year - a lovely local lady, Mary, has brought me in bags and bags of lovely gooseberries from her garden, so I have been able to indulge myself in some less than mainstream recipes. I am very pleased with the result and maybe they will just make the mainstream list in future years.
First up, of course, I made sure of some good old Gooseberry Jam. Certain to set, this jam is problem free. I just had to top and tail the fruit . . . actually, I don't mind this job. I can vividly remember being given a small pair of scissors, a colander and a big basket of gooseberries from our garden when I was a very little girl. If the term 'hyperactive' had been known when I was young it would have been used to describe me! I was given these sorts of jobs to help satisfy my endless quest to be doing something - I didn't mind what it was as long as it was activity. Those of you who know will say that I am still the same today! I was thinking of these times when snipping the ends from these gooseberries. As I snipped I sorted them into sizes keeping the smallest for jelly making - no need to top and tail them!
Although I like making Gooseberry Chutney I decided to make something a little different with these lovely berries - Spiced Gooseberries. Just put 1.1kg/2.5lbs prepared gooseberries into a large pan with 910g/2lbs demerara sugar and 285ml/0.5 pint malt vinegar. Sprinkle over 1 heaped teaspoon of powdered allspice and powdered cinnamon and stir to mix.
Turn up the heat and then simmer slowly until the fruit is cooked and the mixture has thickened slightly (around 20 minutes ) Pot up into warm, sterilised jars and stash away ready for that Boxing Day feast of cold cuts and cheeses - if you can wait that long.
I made two sorts of jelly this year - Gooseberry and Mint and Gooseberry and Elderflower. For the first I cooked the smallest fruits - sorted from the jam session - down with a little water and a few mint sprigs, dripped through a jelly bag overnight, then measured the liquid the next day. I added an equal amount of sugar, stirred to dissolve then boiled to a set. I had a couple of handfuls of mint leaves, finely chopped, which I threw in once the jelly was ready to be potted. This keeps the colour of the herb and stops it going too dark, it doesn't need cooking as such. Remember to wait a little while before potting - around 15 minutes - to prevent all of the mint rising to the top of the jar. A fantastic flavour with roast meats or oily fish and a doddle to make. Or try using it, warmed to melt it a little, brushed over a fresh tomato tart to glaze a Summer lunch favourite.
The Gooseberry and Elderflower is the same in terms of the gooseberries but I replaced about 20% of the sugar with Elderflower Cordial (made a couple of weeks ago ) It is a delicate flowery flavour but delicious on the first toasted crumpets of the Autumn. You don't need to make much, but well worth bothering with a few small jars.
Finally, if you are making up raffle prizes this Summer for shows and fetes, or just giving someone a marvellous gift of your own preserves take a look at our new hamper boxes. Made of very sturdy card they will have a useful life as storage even after your preserves have become empty jars!
There are two shapes - oblong or round - and I have found that the small 110g/3.5oz jars look great in the round - you can fit nine round the outside - with an extra one popped in the middle.
Great value, great style.