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Gooseberry gin

Gooseberry gin

PT20M

PT

In a shady spot in the corner of my garden, a gooseberry bush is spilling out of its wooden planter; groaning under the weight of ripe fruit. I couldn’t bring myself to prune when I could see the beginnings of so many immature and unripe fruits, but I’ve learnt my lesson for next year. My wild, untamed and thorny bush (no laughing at the back) has torn holes through a favourite lightweight summer skirt, because gooseberries, for all their tangy appeal, are an absolute b*$***d to pick. They’re worth the trouble though (depending on the size of the plant, I recommend a pair of gardening gloves or plate armour) if you’re as much of a fan of their complex tartness as I am.

Gooseberries are a revelation in dishes both savoury and sweet. A simple gooseberry compote can be spooned over plain yoghurt, or served as a tart foil to the fattiness of roast pork or duck. There are endless ways to preserve gooseberries to extend their sunshiny flavour well beyond their short summer season. I like to pickle them to serve with pan-fried mackerel or pork rillettes, but my current favourite goosegog vehicle is to make gin. Made in exactly the same way as sloe or damson gin, gooseberry’s earlier season means you won’t have to wait until the depths of winter to enjoy it.

How to make gooseberry gin jam with the steeped berries

Once your gooseberry gin has steeped for long enough, your gin-soaked fruit can be turned into gooseberry gin jam. Simply put the strained gooseberries in a saucepan with 75ml of water (or you can use some of the gin instead, if you like) over a medium-high heat. Stir intermittently for about 10 minutes, or until the fruit has softened and started to break down. Add 450g granulated or caster sugar (that’s equal weights of fruit and sugar), the juice of a lemon and reduce the heat. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring up to a rapid boil for about 10 minutes, or until the jam reaches 105°C/220°F on a sugar thermometer. Skim any scum off the top, before decanting the jam into sterilised jars. Seal and store the jam in a cool, dark place. Unopened jars should last for a year, but once opened, consume within 6 weeks.

Ingredients

1
Top and tail the gooseberries and open freeze. To open freeze any berries, simply put the fruit on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, making sure there is space between each berry, and put the tray in the freezer for about 1 hour. Once all the fruit is cold and firm, you can transfer the fruit to a Tupperware box or freezer bag until ready to use (open freezing ensures you can take out as much or as little fruit as you want, without the need for a chisel)
2
Place the frozen gooseberries (freezing them means you won’t have to prick each berry individually with a sterilised needle) in a large sterilised preserving jar. Leave to defrost
3
Once the gooseberries have defrosted, add the sugar and top up with gin. Seal the jar and give it a vigorous shake
4
Shake the gin once a day until all the sugar has dissolved and then once a week for at least 8 weeks
5
Strain out the gooseberries and save them to make gooseberry gin jam (see intro for recipe) or a drunken gooseberry crumble

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