"You can't grow hairs on a duck egg,
Hairs only grow on an ape,
And it's only the hairs on a goosegog,
That stop it from being a grape."
Both fruity and floral, the scent of simmering gooseberries is one of my favourite summer scents. They do closely resemble green grapes except that they are covered in funny little hairs, and don't come in clusters. One would almost expect them to feel all prickly when you touch them, but they don't . . .
The gooseberry season is very short, only lasting from 3 to 4 weeks, so it is best to grab them while you can. We have a lovely u-pick place not far from us, and so we pick lots, cleaning them and putting them up in the freezer in freezer bags to bring out in the coming winter months and remind us of these warm and sunny summer days when the cold winds are blowing . . . I open freeze them on baking trays and then I can just pour out as many as I need without having to thaw out the lot.
I like to top and tail my gooseberries before eating them, although it's not really necessary. It's very easy to do with a pair of kitchen scissors. (I do this before freezing them) Rinse well in running water to remove any dust or debris. Then lightly pat them dry with some paper kitchen toweling.
Eaten raw . . . they are hard and sour, but when cooked ( add some sugar, or honey and a splash of elderflower cordial) they have a wonderfully muscat flavour. Simply stewed, they make delightful fruit fool and they are also wonderful spooned over cold vanilla ice cream.
But my most favourite way to eat them of all is this . . .
This is an excellent summer pudding. Who doesn't like crumble? This is a wonderfully delicious way to showcase these lovely berries that are only available to eat fresh for a few weeks durin gthe summer months. Elderflower helps to bring out and enhance their rich wine-like flavour.
2 pounds of gooseberries (4 to 5 cups)
4 to 6 TBS of caster sugar (depending on how tart or sweet you like your gooseberries)
3 TBS elderflower cordial
175g plain flour
50g rolled oats
55g brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Top and tail your gooseberries and place them into a shallow ovenproof glass baking dish. Sprinkle the caster sugar evenly over top and drizzle with the cordial.
Place the flour in a food processor, add the butter, cut into cubes, and then blitz until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the oats, brown sugar and cinnamon and pulse a couple of times until mixed together well. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over top of the berries.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly and cooked and the crumble topping is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before serving.
Serve warm, on it's own or with lashings of custard, pouring cream or a tasty dollop of creme fraiche.