My grandmother used to grow gooseberries—so many, in fact, that she sold them wholesale to the local IGA. I love their fantastically tart flavor, sort of like rhubarb in berry form. They’re hard to find in markets, so I’ve planted a bush of my own. But that’s not where these came from.
These gooseberries were foraged. (Some might say stolen.) There’s a neglected gooseberry bush in a public space in my neighborhood. This is the second year that I’ve had my eye on it. I am now convinced that the person who planted it either moved away, died, decided he or she didn’t like gooseberries, or never intended to eat them in the first place. Both years I’ve waited until the berries started falling off the bush, just to make sure that their intended picker had a chance. But in both cases no one has touched them. This year it’s almost been swallowed up by flowers, so I am truly convinced that the fruit is fair game. Even so: if you are reading this blog, and live in West Philly, and believe that you have a claim on these berries, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and state your case. If it’s believable I’ll share some jam.
So, back to that jam. Gooseberries are closely related to currants and make a lovely, sweet-tart jam. They’re also full of pectin, which means that it sets up nicely. (Some might say too nicely. This jam is, shall we say, firm.) I added a bit of ginger for a little extra somethin’ somethin’, but it would be perfectly fine without. If you can find some gooseberries and can resist the urge to make a pie, try this.
Gooseberry Ginger Jam
(Thanks to Little Slice of Life for inspiration!)
3 cups gooseberries, tipped and tailed (that means removing the little blossoms and the stems)
water to cover the gooseberries
3 cups sugar
4 coins of ginger root
1) Put the gooseberries in your favorite jam-making pot and cover with water. Bring to a gentle simmer. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the ginger coins. Remove from the heat, let cool, and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.
2) Remove the ginger coins and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, get your jars and lids ready. Boil it rapidly until it reaches the gelling point, probably about 20 minutes.
3) Transfer to sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Refrigerate any jars that don’t seal.
Note that this time I used a candy thermometer and waited until it reached 228ºF, the traditional gelling point. This resulted in a jam that set slightly too hard for my tastes, but this is a classic set. If you like a softer jam you’re looking for the magic point somewhere between boiling and this, when it gels nicely on a plate. I have learned my lesson and am henceforth reverting to look and feel rather than temperature.