To my greatest delight, I have a mother-in-law who cooks absolutely heavenly things…whether it be a tender roast dinner or a sweet apple tart baked on a plate, she never, ever disappoints. When I popped in for a chat a few days back, she had a large bowl of freshly picked gooseberries on the table that she was “top and tailing”, i.e. removing the top and bottom stems. I marvelled over these berries as I’d never experienced this fruit before in America. At first glance they appeared to be larger-than-life green grapes or teeny-tiny watermelons. Let’s just say, I hadn’t a clue about the greatness of gooseberry. (pronounced gooze-berry) up until then.
A few days later, a gorgeous jar of gooseberry jam was offered up and as I excitedly packed it into my bag and trotted back to our house, I contemplated how fast I could bake up a dozen scones and slather one, or perhaps even two, with this delicious new treat. An hour later, I pulled out a piping hot tray and searched for a container of Glenilen clotted cream in the fridge. After a bit of a cooldown, I carefully broke apart one golden scone and began spooning the gooseberry greatness atop followed by a sweep of fluffy clotted cream….what ensued after could only be described as pure bliss.
Gooseberry jam is perfectly tangy and sweet at once. I find most preserves to be either too much of one or the other, but for me, this berry indulgence is above reproach.
Here is Peggy’s tried and true recipe:
1 lb green gooseberries (topped and tailed)
1 lb Sugar
Simmer gently until the fruit is soft (this may take 30 minutes or longer).
Add the sugar and stir over low heat until dissolved.
Return the jam to the heat, bring to a rattling boil and boil steadily for 10 minutes
To test if the jam is ready, place a spoonful on a plate in the refrigerator and allow it to cool slightly. Drag a spoon across the jam and if it leaves a line the jam is ready.
Put the jam in warm, sterilized jars.
Allow to cool, then cover and place jars into the cupboard.
I hope you will enjoy this special Irish conserve as much as I.
Photograph by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell