30 July, 2010

July recipe: Gooseberry jam

There’s something very pleasing about home-made jam. Gooseberry jam is among the easiest to make, as gooseberries are fairly high in pectin so the jam will set without long boiling.

You can use green gooseberries, red gooseberries or a mixture of the two, depending on taste and availability. Green gooseberries produce a bronze-coloured jam, and a fifty-fifty mix of green and red gooseberries produces jam of a delicate pink colour. As far as I can tell there’s no difference in the flavour.

The quantity below will make about three or four medium-sized jars of jam. You can start eating it straight away, or it will keep indefinitely provided the seal of the jar isn’t broken.

Gooseberry jam

2 lb (approx 1 kg) gooseberries
2 lb (approx 1 kg) sugar. I usually use granulated sugar

Wash the gooseberries.

Top and tail the gooseberries – i.e. cut off the stalk at one end of each berry and the remains of the flower at the other. This tends to be a fairly slow job, so you might like to
find something to listen to on the radio before you start.

Put the gooseberries in a large saucepan.

Cook over a very gentle heat until the juice starts to run. I never need to add any extra water. Then simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until the fruit is soft enough to mash with a wooden spoon. You don’t actually have to mash it, and I usually don’t because I like whole fruit jam, but it’s a good indicator for when the fruit is ready to go on to the next stage.

Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved (a minute or so).

Bring the jam to a full rolling boil – this means lots of bubbles across the whole surface of the liquid in the pan. Don’t lean over the pan and keep any children or pets out of the way. Boiling jam will sometimes spit, and as it is both hot and sticky it can give an unpleasant burn.

Boil until the setting point is reached. To test for setting point, scoop out a teaspoonful of jam and drip it onto a cold plate. It will form a pool. (If it forms a bead, your jam is ready – take it off the heat straight away and proceed to the next step). Wait for the pool to cool (30 seconds or so), then push it horizontally with your finger. If the surface wrinkles, the jam is ready. If the pool stays liquid, keep boiling for another 2 minutes and test again. I usually find this jam reaches setting point after about 10 - 15 minutes boiling.*

Remove the jam from the heat, and pour into clean glass jars. I find the easiest way to do this is to pour from the pan into a heatproof jug, then use the jug to fill the jars.

Seal the jars immediately. I seal jam jars with a layer of cling film and then a screw-top lid, but you can use any method of your choice as long as it is air-tight.

Let the jars cool, label them, and store in a cupboard until needed.

You can scale up the quantity as you see fit, but remember that you need plenty of space in the pan for the jam to boil without boiling over. If the pan is about half-full after you put the sugar in, that should be about right.

*I am told that a sugar thermometer makes it easier to recognise setting point. I’ve never used one, so can’t comment. The old-fashioned way works for me.


Constance Brewer said...

Hmm, I don;t think I'd know a gooseberry if it squirted me in the eye. Sounds good, though. :)

Carla said...

Well, there are some of them in the picture to help with identification :-) Gooseberries seem to be a rather British taste (the plants like cool conditions and don't care for hot sunshine), and even here they're declining in popularity. Maybe they don't grow in the US at all?

Gabriele Campbell said...

They were popular in Germany when we still had a garden (though personally I wasn't too fond of the taste) but I haven't seen much of them on the farmer markets lately.

Annis said...

Doesn't that intense, translucent colour look gorgeous?

Yum - I love gooseberries, though you have to be hardy (and well-dressed) to brave those pesky prickles when you gather them. It's well worth it, though :)

Carla said...

Gabriele - Same here, I don't see gooseberries for sale all that often now, though some farm shops and pick-your-own fruit farms still have them.

Annis - It does look rather pretty, doesn't it? The thorns are a definite nuisance, though at least the berries are a reasonable size so it doesn't take too long to pick them.

spectorbrian said...

inderGooseberries are great right off the bush as a tart snack or in pies and jam/jelly. I have grown gooseberries in ND,SD and colorado and they are really easy requiring very little cultivation.You can get them from online nurseries easy enough.

Barbara D'Angelo said...

They do grow in the US but are not welcome in many areas due to the white pine blister rust. The ban was rescinded in many places but is still in place in northern states. Regardless of that I have noticed many places on my farm have wild gooseberries. I never get a chance to pick them due to time constraints but my neighbor brought over about a gallon of them the other day, I guess I will be making some jam!

Carla said...

SpectorBrian, Barbara - Hello and welcome! Thanks for the information about gooseberries in the US. They do seem straightforward to grow, though I've never seen them growing wild over here. Barbara, hope your jam goes well!