Wednesday, June 30, 2010


You might not be familiar with this amazing gift of nature.  You should be.  They are small and pale green and delicious and my husband claims they look like eye balls.  Fun fact, apparently British people wait until they ripen to pinkish purple to pick and eat them.  It sounds crazy, but after eating my first ripe gooseberry this summer I can say they are amazing, just slightly more sweet than the green form, and with a hint of mint. 

My devotion to gooseberries borders on obsession.  I’ve already warned my husband that gooseberries will be among the first plantings in any backyard garden I am a party to.  I have exactly 11 cups of them in my freezer which will be rationed until next June.  In case we aren’t clear yet, let me explain.

My grandparents have had a bush or two in the backyard for as long as I can remember.  When I was little, my grandmother would bake gooseberry meringue pie.  I even invented gooseberry parfaits as a child to avoid what I considered at the time to be the unnecessary and difficult task of making pie crust. 

A friend who really should leave academia to produce pies full time made me one in honor of my oral qualifying exam in graduate school.  She’s brilliant, but the world would be a much better place with more of her pie in it.  I had barely gotten two bites of that glorious pie into my mouth when my committee interrupted to announce I had passed my exam and had a masters degree.  I was slightly perturbed by the interruption.

I considered serving gooseberry tarts at our wedding since my husband and I had concluded that choosing only one wedding dessert was just not our style.  Instead we each picked two.  When I stopped and thought about it I realized the majority would go to waste on people who really didn’t know what they were getting into and the reception would end with half eaten gooseberry tarts strewn about the venue or tossed in the trash.  No gooseberry should suffer such a fate.  Instead, my aunt produced not one, but two (one sour cream and one regular) gooseberry pies for the rehearsal dinner which were relished by those in the know. 

Get it?  Good.

That said, gooseberry bushes are spikey.  Really spikey.  Huge scary thorn spikey.  So spikey my grandfather, who hates waste, decided to let them ripen and fall to the ground this summer to avoid the torn skin he would endure as a result of any attempt to get at the little orbs.  Hence, my first taste of ripe gooseberries.  You Grow Girl has a great image of them. 

I could not allow this to happen. 

So, last month, I picked gooseberries in my grandpa’s backyard while he hacked away at the last of the rhubarb.

One of his neighbors joined us and told me she used to make gooseberries into a half gooseberry, half blueberry pastry she referred to as bluegoose pie.  I’ll try anything once.

I started with an EatingWell recipe for pie crust.  I use it all the time despite knowing that one used by the previously mentioned pie queen is superior in taste because I’m a sucker for healthier versions of food.  It’s great, but really nothing compares to large portions of butter and shortening.  I do use her replacement of half the water with vodka.  It makes the crust more tender and flaky.

For the filling I mashed together the recipe my aunt provided for gooseberry pie with EatingWell’s suggestion of how little sugar I could feasibly use from their Blueberry Streusel Pie.  I combined a bag of frozen blueberries (about 3 cups),  2 cups gooseberries I’d collected at my grandfather’s, cleaned, and frozen, ½ cup of sugar, and a tablespoon of cornstarch in a saucepan.  I heated them on the stove until the gooseberries started to pop and the juice thickened a bit, poured it into the crust, topped it with a little lattice action and baked it.

I think the blueberries tone the gooseberries down a little too much, but overall pretty scrumptious.  I heart pie.

1 comment:

  1. I have a gooseberry bush ready for you when you buy your first house.

    I have some picking techniques I will have to pass on next time we talk gooseberries.

    Also, my grandma and grandpa both have stories about the pies they had growing up made with various berries mixed in with gooseberries (basically, anything they could find walking home from school or in the garden).

    The bush that I'm going to give you has successfully given off many cuttings. The original bush or patch of bushes still exists in the flinthills about a mile from my grandfather's childhood home. I picked gooseberries from the 15+ bushes just this spring. However, these bushes are more wild and the thorns are wicked. The one you are getting has become more domesticated and the thorns aren't as bad and the gooseberries are much larger.



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