Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Gooseberries might be hard to track down, but it's worth the search for this unique, tart berry. Once you find it, we're armed with ideas for enjoying them -- all week long.
Although not as popular in the U.S., gooseberries are beloved in other parts of the world, especially by the Bristish. (Shakespeare perhaps not included: he has Falstaff deride them in Henry IV.) In the 17th and 18th centuries there were hundreds of gooseberry clubs and societies in Northern England honoring those who grew the biggest berries. Dubbed "the forgotten fruit," there's even a movie documenting one of the few remaining annual gooseberry shows.
Gooseberries are tart and crisp, so if you're a fan of rhubarb's tang, you’ll probably like gooseberries too. The gooseberries you pick up at the farmers market will likely be smooth and pale green, but other varieties can be different colors (white, yellow, red, or shades of purple), and the berries can be hairy or even spiky. Gooseberries are at their peak now, but if you can't find them at a market near you, this Hotline thread can help with online sources.
Look for firm, dry berries that have a nice sheen to them, and if you prefer sweeter berries, go for the red- and purple-hued gooseberries. Unlike other berries, gooseberries keep well for up to a couple of weeks in the refrigerator -- Elizabeth Schneider notes that they will get softer and pinker the longer they’re stored (Like the difference between 1 and 2.). To prep the berries, give them a good rinse, and cut off a tiny bit of each end of the berries (3) with a small knife (this is called topping and tailing). This step isn’t necessary, though, if you’re going to be sieving out the seeds.
Gooseberries are often used in jams and curds, as well as desserts: they're great in pies, cakes, and crumbles. Not surprisingly, gooseberries make their way into popular English desserts too, like fools and syllabubs. Or make your own gooseberry beverages -- use them as a cocktail garnish, make gooseberry wine, or even sparkling wine! When they take a walk on the savory side, they're commonly paired with oily fish like mackerel, but also make a lovely sauce for chicken, duck or pork. Are you ready to revive gooseberry fan clubs? We've got ideas for celebrating gooseberries all week long.
Friday: Gooseberry Ginger Bellini
Saturday: Baked Gooseberry, Ginger and Crème Fraîche Cheesecake
Sunday: Gooseberry Soup with Floating Islands and Almond Crunch
Monday: Gooseberry Sorbet
Tuesday: Baked Mackerel with Gooseberry Sauce
Wednesday: Gooseberry, Lemon, and Macadamia Nut Crumbles
Thursday: Gooseberry and Elderflower Cordial
Photos by James Ransom