Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Prickly, green, hairy and sour

Gooseberries get a bad press these days – prickly, green, hairy and sour. Once upon a time they were a medicinal fruit and more recently the prize berry of the Victorian kitchen garden; but that was before 1905 when American Mildew came to Europe and growing Gooseberries has never been the same since. If your Gooseberry crop escapes the yucky mildew, the bush may well be defoliated by the horrid little lavae of the Gooseberry Sawfly.

Maybe this year we have the long, cold winter and dry spring to thank – our Invicta Gooseberry bush has no Sawfly lavae nor mildew. We had a bumper crop of perfect Gooseberries – three cheers! Jam, I had to make Gooseberry jam! If you're a novice jam-maker, this is the jam to start with – it's easy-peasy and therefore very satisfying indeed.

Here's how I made Gooseberry jam last Friday evening . . .

Pick your Gooseberries

'Nub' them (that's Fen-dialect for topping and tailing)

avoiding any wildlife!

Cook with a little water,
add preserving sugar (same weight as you had of gooseberries)
and boil hard for about 15 minutes

If your gooseberries are young the jam will be olive green
older sweeter berries produce a coppery orange preserve

Test for set (dribble a little on a cold saucer
and see if it wrinkles when you tip the saucer)

Pot up into sterilised jars and label


I think Gooseberry jam is up there with the very, very best!


  1. We're very close to our very first harvest of glorious red gooseberries - I'm so excited!

  2. Can I ask if you use wax discs, or cling film on top of the jam?
    Our gooseberries escaped the dreaded sawfly, and mildew... sadly not the mice though! They found their way in last year and ate the lot and we had no idea what it was had caused them to disappear. This year it began again slowly, so I asked my friend James A-S and he said he thought it was most definitely mice. So we quickly covered more securely and have saved the rest, which are in need of picking. Husband loves them, I can't eat them due to the acidity.

  3. Fortuitously they are ripe in elderflower season (they are up north anyway) and the flowers from a few heads of berries make it really fragrant.

  4. Yummmmm indeed! Yours jams look gorgeous. We have inherited 6 old gooseberry bushes on our new allotment and they are covered with little hairy gems. I will give your jam recipe a go... thank you for your post. Lou x

  5. I have just potted up six jars of coppery red gooseberry jam... waiting for it to cool enough so I can try it!

  6. I must have done something wrong as I only have about 5 gooseberries on my bush this year! they are red though... maybe I could make a thimble full of jam?

  7. Looks lovely, though I have to be honest, I can't remember ever having eaten a gooseberry, so can't imagine the taste.
    I would gladly have a winter like the one we've just had, in return for a summer like this every year!

  8. Oh you have made my mouth water. I WANT THAT TOAST! Still, I have another substance to spread on mine if I remember.

    Just been hanging the seedboxes. Ooof, I'm getting excited!

  9. Heaven!! I escaped sawfly last year but have been badly eaten and very dry this year. I might have a few in a few weeks. I can enjoy yours vicariously!

  10. Celia, perhaps because of that American Mildew, it is sort of unusual to find gooseberries at the farmers' green markets here in NY.

    So...I'd add a very cheeky final instruction to the jam making ... arrange required transport for American gooseberry jam fan to fly over to sample delicious freshly made jam on toast.

    Kidding of course! The jam really does look marvelous. Enjoy every bit of it. xo

  11. OK you inspired me. Jam (complete with elderflowers) made yesterday.

  12. I like to respond to all your lovely comments - but I see I'm so behind!

    I've decided to start with the most recent post and work back if I have the time...

    Hi Dottycookie - dessert gooseberries are a treat - enjoy!

    Hi Maggie - I just re-use the jar lids (is that wrong? seems to work). Mice? that's a new one on me! Have you thought it could be pheasants?

    Hi Veg Heaven - you're spot on, and I did sneak some elderflowers in when I cooked the gooseberries, but didn't mention it as I didn't photograph them. Enjoy your jam.

    Hi Lou - welcome to PPPs. I hope your jam is a great success.

    Hi Gina - Yay!

    Hi belleaukitchen - a fool, maybe?

    Hi Dan - What! not tasted gooseberry! You need to put that right straight away! Cook a few and sweeten with sugar and stir into greek yogurt or vanilla ice-cream.

    Hi Silverpebble - you're studio is going to look so beachy and summery! Yes I know you have that other pot of stuff to go on toast, I have one too ;-)

    Hi Matron - I've just seen your fruit harvest - whoah!!!

    Hi Frances - oops missed that stage off the recipe, didn't I! Isn't it sad how gooseberries have fallen to the bottom of the fruit popularity table.


  13. You should come along to the gooseberry festival in Goostrey one day.I am sure you would find kindred spirits.

  14. I was reading about Gooseberry shows only this morning. In the 18th century England (especially the North) was smitten with competitive Gooseberry growing... size mattered!

    How wonderful the tradition carries on.


  15. Oh, oh oh, I love gooseberry jam and this looks quite delicious. I keep telling everyone it's better than strawberry. But as I haven't grown gooseberries for many years haven't actually eaten it for many years, so feeling quite envious.

  16. Hi Choclette - it IS far better than strawberry jam, or you can add some gooseberries to strawberries to make a deluxe strawb' jam :-)


  17. It's not just the American Mildew making gooseberries rare in the US. Gooseberries and currants are carriers of white pine blister rust. The rust kills white pine trees. It's illegal to plant or grow currants and gooseberries in affected areas, which includes most of the northeastern US. I've spent my life in the northeast and have never so much as seen a fresh gooseberry in the market. I have eaten imported red-currant jelly. Your pictures have me salivating at the thought of how much better fresh berries would be.

    More info on the rust:


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