Is it just me or do you find it difficult to fit all the jam, chutney and cordial making, that we read so much about, into a busy lifestyle? Harvesting, storing and preserving our fruit and veg comes part and parcel with a self-sufficient lifestyle, but can take some planning when we’re trying to fit it into a work and family routine.
I’ve been thinking about making one of my favourite seasonal jams for the past three or four years but for whatever reason, missed picking this tasty, tart berry and have been disappointed that another season of gooseberry jam making has been lost.
As a big fan of the humble gooseberry I was determined to make something with the fruit growing in our garden this year, particularly as they’re ripening later due to the long, late spring. Extra sugar was added to the shopping trolley “just in case”, the muslin cloth was washed in readiness and empty jars located. Sunday turned out to be a rare, lazy day at home – perfect for picking gooseberries.
As I poked around the fruit area bowl in hand, I found that we’ve only one, small gooseberry bush growing, with three or four large jostaberry bushes over shadowing it, each dripping with under-ripe fruit. Rather than strip the gooseberry bush bare, I picked about a kilo of both berries, giving me enough to make just over six jars of jam, of various sizes.
Like currants, if you’re thinking of making anything with jostaberries be warned, it’s mind numbingly tedious topping and tailing the small berries. However, once in the right head space, my pile of berries were cleaned, trimmed and ready to be added to the preserving pan.
If you’d like to make gooseberry jam, with or without the jostaberries, here’s a recipe that’s a combination of a couple I found in old recipe books. If you like your jam sweet but tart, this one is for you. I wasn’t disappointed with the outcome and am looking forward to tucking into it over the coming months. If I can enlist some help with the berries from one of my “bored” teenagers, I might even make another batch for gifts..
Gooseberry, Jostaberry and Elderflower Jam Recipe
1kg of gooseberries and green jostaberries, or a kilo of gooseberries on their own
1kg of granulated sugar
400ml of water
4 elderflower heads, picked in the evening
- Top and tail the gooseberries and jostaberries. I pinched them out with my fingertips but you can use scissors or a sharp knife.
- Place the berries in a stainless steel preserving saucepan and add the water.
- Shake the elderflowers in case there are insects lurking then wrap the flowerheads in some muslin, tie and place in the pan with the berries and water.
- Cook on the hob for around 20 minutes or so until the berries are soft but holding their shape.
- Remove the elderflower bag.
- Add the sugar to the pan and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Ramp up the heat and boil the berries for around ten minutes until setting point is reached. If you have a jam thermometer all well and good, setting point is marked at around 220°C. I don’t as it somehow landed in the dishwasher so now have to do the ‘saucer test’. This involves placing a saucer in the freezer until nice and cold, then when I think the jam is ready, dripping a teaspoonful onto the cold saucer and seeing if it holds its shape, or crinkles when I push it. Sometimes this works, sometimes we end up with runny jam on our toast.
- When the jam has reached setting point, remove it from the heat and pour it into steralised jars. Cover, seal and label.
Do you like gooseberries and jostaberries? They can be pricey in the supermarkets but you might find them cheaper at farm gates or markets at this time of year and they’re easy to grow in the garden, though beware, gooseberry bushes hide some wicked thorns.