Friday, August 15, 2014

Gooseberry Cardamom Jam

Finnish Crepes served with fresh bilberries, Gooseberry Cardamom Jam, and Turkish yogurt.
Gooseberries are funny little things. Every summer, up at J's mummo's place, there are a few old gooseberry bushes that faithfully produce a 2 liters of green gooseberries and 1 liter of big red ones…and about 1/2 liter of the little wild ones that we use for eating only.

The branches of the bushes have pokey little thorns that grab your hand as you reach for the berries, and nearly each berry comes off of the bush with a dried flower poking out of the top end and a stem attached to the other end.  Both ends of each berry need to be trimmed before consuming; the easiest way to accomplish this is to grab a pair of scissors and trim each berry, one by one.

Green gooseberries, before the stems and blossoms were trimmed.  
So there you are with your pail of berries, but what do you do with them then?  You can only eat so many straight up, and out of the freezer they are so tart that every time we tried them over morning oatmeal or in smoothies we ended up throwing the end result away, or tried to compensate for the unbelievable sourness by adding heaps of sweet stuff.  Not good.

So now gooseberry harvest is over for another year, and this time I tried a few new tricks.  The first, made with the green gooseberries, was a Gooseberry Cake - a cake whose texture and flavor definitely improved after sitting overnight, and one I'd try again.  More on that cake later.  The other recipe I tried was a Gooseberry Cardamom Jam.

With a scant liter of red gooseberries available, I didn't have a lot of raw ingredients to work with, which was no problem, really, because I wasn't sure my experiment would work at all.  But we'd decided we were going to make Finnish Crepes for dinner, but didn't have any jam on hand - a must-have ingredient when eating sweet crepes around here.  Necessity is the mother of invention as we know, and I started combining ingredients into pot.

Gooseberry Cardamom Jam is the perfect tart-sweet note in these dinner Finnish crepes.
This is a jam with a really strong flavor - you don't need much at all on the crepe, and it isn't a jam you'd put on toast.  The cardamom flavor stands out strongly and cleanly against the gooseberry's equally strong flavor, and I didn't want to over-sweeten as I like my jams to taste like what they are made of rather than to be a sickly sweet mass.

It's a jam I'm looking forward to experimenting with in savory foods: I'd like to combine it with a brown sauce to serve with a roast, or to use it as I would with blackcurrant jam, and serve it with roast chicken.  This actually makes sense to me that the flavor is reminiscent of blackcurrant as both berries are part of the Ribes genus.

For now, roast anything will have to wait, as first, I'm starting with crepes.

But if you need other ideas for using up Gooseberries, here are a few:

Mrs Wheelbarrow makes pectin from gooseberries.
Nigel Slater makes gooseberry pie, a recipe published in his cookbook Ripe.
And brought to you by the BBC, a plethora of options.

The makings of a good dinner.
Gooseberry Cardamom Jam

1 liter red gooseberries, blossoms and stems trimmed
2-3 dl sugar / 1 - 1.5 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 dl / 1/4 cup water

Place 3 spoons on a plate and into the freezer.

Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed stockpot.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium.  Allow the mixture to boil for 25 - 30 minutes, until the mixture has reduced and smallish bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan.  Remove from heat.  Pour a small amount of jam onto one of your spoons and return it to the freezer for 5 minutes.  The jam is done if, when you push the jam on the spoon with your finger, it wrinkles a little.  If it has not gelled enough, cook for an additional 5 minutes and test again.  Repeat again until it has gelled to your liking.

Note: gooseberries contain a lot of pectin, so you don't want to cook this too long.  It's best if it's a little runny as a finished product.

Once the jam is done, remove from heat.

Using a wide mouth funnel placed in the jar and a ladle, spoon the jam into the jars, leaving a 1/2" / 1.5 cm space at the top.  Repeat until all of the jars are full.  Using a damp paper towel, wipe the rim of the jar so there is no jam residue left.  Place the hot lid on the jar, and, using a towel to hold the hot jar so you don't burn your hand, tighten the lid finger-tight (don't over tighten; the best way to ensure that you don't is to use your thumb and first to fingers to tighten the lid, which means you won't have enough finger strength to push it too far.)

Wash the big jam pot.  Put a dish towel in the bottom and place the jars on top.  Fill with water to cover the jar by at least 1"/ 2,5 cm.  Put the lid on and bring the pot to a boil.  Once boiling, set the timer for 15 minutes.  When the timer stops, turn off the heat and let the jars rest for 5 minutes.  Remove the jars from hot water and set on a dish cloth on the countertop, right side up, to cool completely.  Check to make sure the lids have sealed:  the top dome of the lid should be pulled in tightly and shouldn't move when you press it with your finger.  Sometimes you'll hear a ping as the jars cool and the lid seals, but not always.  If the lids are sealed, label the jars and store them in a cool, dark place for up to one year.  If your jar doesn't seal, put it in the fridge and use it within one month. 

Makes 1/2 liter / 1 pint.

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