Friday, November 2, 2007
Wild gooseberry jam
As you can see the codger isn't getting much camera trap material these days, but as I was removing spines from my palate the other day, I thought I would share with you my secret for making wild gooseberry jam.
As you may know, wild gooseberries are usually rather prickly fruits. The local canyon gooseberries are among the spiniest, but some plants have tremendous loads of fruit.
Well, I'm an incurable wild food gatherer, and back in August when the gooseberries started to blush, I couldn't resist the temptation. The redhead agreed to cook them down according to a recipe I had found on the net.
Now that recipe makes no mention of disarming the berries, so we assumed that boiling the fruit would suffice to do the trick.
Not true, the jam was a beautiful deep cooked-gooseberry-color, but the berries looked a little bristly, and imparted an interesting textural quality to the otherwise delectable preserve. Unfortunately, no one in the extended family was interested in sharing in this culinary experience. The redhead concluded that it wasn't worth the effort, and advised me that if I had to have gooseberry preserves I would have to cook them myself.
Well, the next batch sat on the kitchen counter for several days, and I discovered that with dessication the spines actually become a little limp. They don't completely disappear, and the cooked fruit still looks a little bristly, but this was definitely an improvement.
Then I got a brilliant idea, which I want to share with the two or three other readers out there who might actually be deranged enough to try this. The solution to the problem of gooseberry spines is the blow torch.
I spread this last batch of berries on the table saw's cast iron surface, but you could use a cookie pan. Then just fire up your propane torch and singe off the prickles. When you boil down the torched fruit the spines will barely be noticeable to those with good vision, and older folks won't even see them. If you like slightly tart flavors, you will find the finished jam quite agreeable. The blackened seeds add an interesting visual quality, and the fascinating texture is still there.
Good luck, and be sure to wear gloves when you are picking next year.