It’s no coincidence that the respective seasons for gooseberries and elderflowers are one of the same. The tart taste of the gooseberry goes so well with the sweet vanilla-esque taste of the elderflower. A match made in heaven.
Luckily we have a few well established gooseberry bushes in the fruit patch and the elders we planted last year are teaming with large flower heads which are now coming into bloom. The sweet heady fragrance is almost too much when you walk past. Last year the pups were extremely interested in the unripe gooseberries and they picked them carefully from the plants (taking care not to prick their noses on the thorns) eating almost all of them. This year however they have shown no interest in them, which of course means all the more for us!
Easy to grow
Gooseberries do very well here in the Belgian Ardennes. They are easy to grow and require hardly any maintenance. I placed some compost around the base of each plant at the end of the winter and that was pretty much it. Before I started growing my own I hadn’t even heard of gooseberries. They are not the most likely fruit to find in the aisles at the supermarket because of their tart taste which makes them unsuitable to eat raw. If you leave them on the plant long enough though, they become a little bit sweeter.
Gooseberries are great to make sauces with or to use in a pie perhaps with some strawberries and are brilliant preserved and made into a jam. A taste of spring in a (jam) pot to dip into on cold winter days, dreaming of springs to come…
This recipe comes of course from Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2 written by Pam Corbin who is the queen of preserving.
Green Gooseberry Jam with Elderflower
Makes 5-6 x 340g jars
1 kg young gooseberries
Around 8 heads of elderflower
1 kg granulated sugar
Top and tail the gooseberries and put into a preserving pan with 500ml water. Check the elderflower heads of any insects, then place on top of the gooseberries. Cook gently until the berries are soft but still hold their shape. Remove the elderflowers.
Add the sugar. Stir carefully, so as not to break up the fruit, until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a full rolling boil and boil for 9-10 minutes. Test for setting point.
Remove from the heat, allow to rest for 10 minutes, then pot and seal. Use within 12 months.
From personal experience, try a spoonful on a bit of thick yoghurt. Heavenly!!