Another rather late post, because your gooseberries will be gone by now, but I wanted to share the gooseberry love, and also the glory of my garden to which I have done precisely NOTHING, and which nevertheless was styling it out beauteously in June and July (see pics below)… As Maria sang, I must’ve done something good.
When I was little we used to go for sunday lunch with my grandparents. I don’t remember much about these lunches, but I do recall the fact that they often merged into teatime. My grandmother had proper china tea in very thin cups that needed a silver spoon placed inside them before the tea was poured, lest the china should crack under the heat. I don’t remember milk being an option (though I’m sure it was there)…everyone, including children had weak lapsang with a slice of lemon and that was that. And then there was also something called ‘sticky bread’, a treacly, molasses-laden confection which came from the supermarket, and which we spread with butter. Memories.
This only relates to gooseberries because I was an eater of lemons, pilfering the delicious sunshine coloured semi-circles and scoffing the juicy flesh without so much as a squint. Sour is one of my greatest pleasures, so no surprise then, that I’m a gooseberry lover. I take them and eat them neat, even early in the season. I love the hairy skin, and the fact that they burst in your mouth. I love that other people aren’t interested in them – less competition…all the more for moi.
I got my bush from Mark Diacono at Otter Farm, who sells a lovely selection of good, bare-root plants. Mine is Invicta, and it gave me an absolute bumper crop this year…too much to demolish in passing (even for me). I don’t give it any special treatment. You could grow it in a pot if you wanted, but mine is in a raised bed with a redcurrant, some roses and a bit of lavender. Picking is a prickly business that needs to be done slowly and with some care if you want to emerge unscathed. Take care…it’s worth it.
The advice from Twitter was to make relish, from a recipe by the utterly brilliant Pam Corbin in her River Cottage Handbook ‘Preserves’. It couldn’t be simpler and, well, there’s none left.
Just heat 500g sugar with 100ml cider vinegar and 100ml water, along with some spices (Pam suggests mustard seeds, fennel, cumin, nigella and fenugreek seeds). Dissolve the sugar and set aside for a while to infuse. Then add the fruit (1kg), along with some raisins and cook gently for 20 mins until you can pop the gooseberries and the thing is thick and gloopy. Pour into sterilised jars and use within a year.