Gooseberry Jam

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My grandmother had two small fruit-bearing bushes at the edge of her garden – a black current and a gooseberry.  Both were good producers despite their relatively small size and age.  I remember helping her to stem and tip the berries before they were made into jam. Every year, she would make a small amount of black current jam and the same of gooseberry, both of which would be very judiciously produced throughout the year as these were considered very special jams.  One did not eat these jams at the same rate as the more common strawberry and raspberry jams were consumed! I loved her black current and gooseberry jams!

Gooseberries are not altogether commonly found on PEI. However, Belangers U-pick near Hunter River has a small number of gooseberry bushes and I was fortunate enough this year to get enough to make a batch of gooseberry jam and the beautiful blush-colored gooseberries yielded me a stunning deep red-colored jam that has an almost translucent texture.

Gooseberries

Gooseberries

The only deterrent to gooseberries is that they have to be “tailed and stemmed” meaning both tips and stems have to be removed before doing anything with them. While this is a bit of a tedious and time-consuming task, it’s a small price to pay for a berry that yields such a tasty jam! Because of their small size, it takes a lot of berries to yield any amount of jam so that’s why jams such as black current and gooseberry are more rare and are thus often referred to as specialty jams.

Typically, in a berry jam, it is cup-for-cup,  sugar to berries.  However, with gooseberries, I find that the resulting jam is quite sweet so I reduce the sugar by a third of a cup.  This small reduction is not enough to make a difference to the jamming ability of the berries but it does reduce the sweetness just a bit. While my grandmother would never have put a splash of liqueur of any kind in her jam, I do add a couple of tablespoons of orange-flavoured liqueur in mine to deepen the flavour.  This is an optional ingredient but, nonetheless, good. The idea, of course, is moderation so only a couple of tablespoons will do and it’s not so much that you can taste the orange liqueur in the jam as it is the complexity and depth of flavour the liqueur subtly contributes to the jam.

Gooseberry jam is a thick jam and it is very easy to overcook it and end up with a jam that is so thick, it is hard to remove it from the jar.  Therefore, take care when cooking not to over cook it.

To test for jam “setting”, I recommend using the “chill-and-wrinkle” test.  Place 2-3 saucers in the freezer and, as the jam is nearing the end of its expected cooking time as indicated in the recipe, remove a saucer from the freezer and place 1 – 2  teaspoons of the jam on it.

Let the jam sit, untouched, for about a minute then gently push the jam with your finger to make a line through the center of the jam.  If the jam wrinkles slightly and stays in place (i.e., does not run back together after the finger has been removed), the jam is set and ready to bottle. This test may need to be done 2-3 times during the cooking process. Just remember to remove the pot of jam from the heat while conducting the test. If the first “chill-and-wrinkle” test is negative, return the jam pot to the heat, continuing cooking, and test again in about 3 minutes time or so.  Continue doing this until the jam passes the “chill-and-wrinkle” test.

I love this jam on toast, biscuits, scones, and croissants.  A dob of the jam on warm custard also makes a great dessert. Gooseberry jam also works well as a filler in thumbprint cookies or in anything where a sweet, showy red jam is desired.

I think my grandmother would be plum-delighted to know that I am continuing on with her tradition of making the cherished gooseberry jam…..even if I do add a splash of liqueur to the recipe!

Gooseberry Jam

2 lbs gooseberries (apx. 4 cups)
3 ⅔  cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 tbsp Cointreau

Wash gooseberries and remove tips and stems from the berries.

Place two or three saucers in freezer for use later in “chill-and-wrinkle” testing to determine if jam is set.

Place sugar and water in large pot. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Then, add the gooseberries and Cointreau. Return mixture to a boil and cook rapidly, uncovered, and stirring occasionally for about 25* minutes or until mixture reaches the setting point.

To determine if jam is set, remove jam pot from heat and place 1 – 2 teaspoons of jam on cold saucer and swirl saucer around. Let jam sit, untouched, for about a minute, then gently push your finger through the jam. If the jam ‘wrinkles’ slightly and holds its shape (i.e., does not run back together after the finger has been removed), it is set and ready to bottle. If not, continue to cook mixture, repeating the “chill-and-wrinkle” test about every 3 minutes or so (always removing the pot from the heat while conducting the chill test) until the jam passes the “chill-and-wrinkle” test. Do not overcook as it will result in a very thick jam. Remove from heat and skim off any foam that may still remain. Pour jam into sterilized jars, leaving about ¼” headroom in each jar. Seal.

Store jam in refrigerator or cold room. For greater longevity, process in a hot water bath, following canner manufacturer’s directions.

Yield: Apx. 4 half pints

*Note that the 25-minute point is the stage at which the “chill-and-wrinkle” test should commence. It does not necessarily mean that the jam will be done in that timeframe. With jams, it is difficult to give a precise cooking time since various factors, including the pectin level of the fruit and heat level of stove, can vary significantly and may affect cooking and jam-setting times. This is why the “chill-and-wrinkle” test is the recommended method for determining jam setting.

Gooseberry Jam

Yield: Apx. 4 half pints

A deliciously rich deep red-colored jam. Serve on toast, scones, biscuits or croissants, in custard, or as a filler in thumbprint cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs gooseberries (apx. 4 cups)
  • 3 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp Cointreau

Instructions

  1. Wash gooseberries and remove tips and stems from the berries.
  2. Place two or three saucers in freezer for use later in chill testing to determine if jam is set.
  3. Place sugar and water in large pot. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Then, add gooseberries and Cointreau. Return mixture to a boil and cook rapidly, uncovered, and stirring occasionally, for about 25* minutes, or until mixture reaches the setting point.
  4. To determine if jam is set, remove jam pot from heat and place 1 - 2 teaspoons of jam on cold saucer and swirl saucer around. Let jam sit, untouched, for about a minute, then gently push your finger through the jam. If the jam ‘wrinkles’ slightly and holds its shape (i.e., does not run back together after the finger has been removed), it is set and ready to bottle. If not, continue to cook mixture, repeating the chill-and-wrinkle test about every 3 minutes or so (always removing the pot from the heat while conducting the chill test) until the jam passes the “chill-and-wrinkle” test. Do not overcook as it will result in a very thick jam. Remove from heat and skim off any foam that may still remain. Pour jam into sterilized jars, leaving about ¼” headroom in each jar. Seal.
  5. Store jam in refrigerator or cold room. For greater longevity, process in a hot water bath, following canner manufacturer’s directions.
  6. *Note that the 25-minute point is the stage at which the "chill-and-wrinkle" test should commence. It does not necessarily mean that the jam will be done in that timeframe. With jams, it is difficult to give a precise cooking time since various factors, including the pectin level of the fruit and heat level of stove, can vary significantly and may affect cooking and jam-setting times. This is why the "chill-and-wrinkle" test is the recommended method for determining jam setting.
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Gooseberry Jam
Gooseberry Jam
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