Monday, July 13, 2009

Gooseberries!


Look at these beautiful berries from my friend’s garden (in central/western, MA). These are a pink /ruby colored variety and are sweet, not to mention gorgeous. Well, they are sweet as far as gooseberries go, which is on the tarter side of the berry spectrum. Not rhubarb tart, but many other varieties are equated to unripe grapes. These are like sweet grapes and could be nibbled right off of the vine. This type is related to edible currants (black, red and white) and is a member of the genus Ribes.Without getting too technical, there are varieties the color of green grapes, crimson-toned ones as I have here and others that are green with a hint of blush color. Some have small hairs, while some do not. Thankfully mine were "nude". Here's a pic of a single branch showing you how the berries proliferate on the plant.Below is a picture I found online of a green variety. Over the years I have seen the green types more often, so dont be surprised if these are the ones you come upon.This photo below shows one up close and you can see the stem end and the curly tail end - kinda like the curly tail ends of a green bean. In recipe directions it will often say “top and tail the gooseberries”, which refers to removing the stiffer stem (the "top") and the thin “tail”. This is not hard, but as you can imagine, is time consuming. If you are going to do it, just use the nails of your index finger and thumb to pinch them off.

This photo below and to the left shows the inside, which is quite seedy. Most recipes have you strain the cooked pulp. I do strain when cooking them, but I also like to eat them whole and raw. I liken them to strawberries with their seeds. The seeds are there, you are aware of them, but I enjoy them and consider them part of the gooseberry experience.

Here is a great big tip. I have found that if you are cooking them and know that you will be straining them after (which is really pressing the pulp firmly through a strainer), you can eliminate the topping and tailing prep as these hard bits will be retained by the strainer anyway and your pure, juicy pulp will fall down into your bowl.

If you are lucky enough to find some in a yard – or I have even heard of folks finding them in public parks – take advantage and make yourself a fool. Not into a fool! But make a fool, which is a simple English dessert of cooked crushed fruit and whipped cream. It is easy, light (in that deceptive way that desserts “lightened” with cream can be) and in this day and age, unusual.

Gooseberry Fool

The sugar will be to taste, as the gooseberries will vary so.

Serves 6 to 8

2 pounds gooseberries
2 tablespoons water
1/2 to 1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream

Separate individual berries from their branches, if necessary. Gently rinse and dry the berries. (Save a few whole berries for embellishment). Place berries and water in a deep saucepan and add smallest amount of sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a simmer. Total cooking time will be about 15 minutes. About halfway through, crush with a potato masher. You will know they are done when the mixture is homogenous and thickened and soft. Press through a strainer, discarding solids, reserving purée. Taste. If it is too tart, place back in pot with a bit more sugar and cook until sugar dissolves. Cool. This puree can be made a day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Bring back to room temperature before proceeding. Right before serving, whip the cream until soft peaks form and fold in the puree until a few streaks still show (I think it looks prettier this way, which I exaggerated a bit for the picture). Gently spoon into glass goblets and crown with a few reserved berries, if desired.

If you have a surfeit of berries, try adding a handful to a berry crisp, crumble or pie. Or even toss a few into your morning oatmeal, as I was lucky enough to do this morning.

Speaking of oatmeal. Look for an upcoming blog about chewy steel-cut oats. My new morning favorite.

For the dog fans out there, I leave you with a pic of my bull terrier Beckett, who watched me take these photos out on our deck on this glorious July afternoon.

1 comment:

onlinepastrychef said...

How beautiful those red guys are--I'm only familiar with the green ones. And I do love a fool--anything w/whipped cream in it is pretty much fine with me!