Saturday, July 3, 2010

The trouble with gooseberries

Our century-old house has a gooseberry bush behind the garage.  What, you may ask, do I use the gooseberries for?  Well, I'm still trying to figure that out.

I've mentioned before that we bought our house from a couple that lived here for more than 40 years.  The woman was very, very fond of her garden.  But in her later years, she did very little to maintain it -- partly because she and her husband spent their summers at a cabin in the Lake of the Ozarks.

We moved in the house in the fall, and the next summer, our next-door neighbor asked if she could pick our gooseberries for the lady who formerly lived in the house.  I guess she really missed the little gooseberry bush.  I'm not sure what she used the berries for -- pie or jam, I suppose.  She hasn't been back since to pick the berries, probably because my neighbor scratched up her arms something fierce in the thorny bush.

But it got me thinking, what am I missing out on?  Are gooseberries a secret delicacy, just waiting to be revealed?

So I picked the berries myself (and got a few scratches in the process) and tried to make a pie.  It turned out terrible, absolutely terrible.  I figured I just found a bad recipe on the Internet; I just needed to add more sugar.

This year, my husband did the gooseberry-picking for me.  Since I had all my canning supplies out, I decided to make gooseberry jam, using a recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Let me tell you, it took forever to get the tiny stems off the gooseberries.  Then I had a terrible time mashing down the thick-skinned berries; I couldn't even get them through my food mill!  When I finally got the berries down to a jam-like consistency, the mash looked beautiful -- a jewel green color.

But then...the jam started to boil, or rather, foam up.  And then the mash turned pale brown.  And it started to smell weird.  Not sure how to describe it, just not sweet and summery like I had hoped.

In the end, I ended up with a strange, brown glob of gooseberry goo.  I didn't like the taste at all.  It tasted more like a vegetable than a berry, and not in a good way.

So if anyone happens to read this blog, could you please tell me a good way to use up my gooseberries?  There's got to be a reason why the former homeowners loved them so much.  What's the secret?


  1. Ha! They look pretty cool though! Sorry I can't help you out with this, but I'll check around.

  2. I've never seen a gooseberry. Do they grow wild - or something planted? Too bad you don't know what the former owner liked about them!

  3. Gooseberries grow wild here in Iowa. But I'm not sure if ours is wild or was planted. I think the former homeowner used the gooseberries for jam. She also made rose hip jam from one of the old rose bushes in our yard, although I'm not sure how, since the bush is very small.

  4. I tried my first gooseberry at the weekend and wasn't too keen, but if I did like them I would have made them into gooseberry fool. And probably use this recipe:

  5. Great! Thanks so much for the recipe. I'm not ready to give up on gooseberries yet (although I would like to plant a raspberry bush, too.)

  6. Dry them~?

    might increase their sweetness... or at least concentrate it ;)

    I hear they tend to be tart~~ so if you can learn to love the tartness, you may enjoy them! I've never had one fresh, myself, but I'm curious~! I'd like to.

  7. I know this post was written a long time ago, but wondered how you've come along with the berries. From your photo I also wondered if your gooseberries were not yet ripe. I think they are supposed to turn reddish when ripe.

  8. I'm afraid our gooseberry bush isn't doing so well because of the strange weather we've been having in Iowa. I always picked the berries when they are green, but maybe I'll wait next time (if the bush starts producing fruit again.) Always appreciate the advice!

  9. I love gooseberry pie, but I've never made it myself.

  10. Eat them from the bush!
    Ripe they are delicious :)
    They shall be soft and juicy.
    Some stay green, other turn brownish violet.
    ♥to you

  11. Hi, you might try making pickles with them, (if u like spicy food of course:-)....well, in India that's one of the things its used for...managed to find an easy recipe which you might want to try sometimes...check it out :
    All the best


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