Throughout the summer, plump, grape-like gooseberries are a familiar sight at roadside stands and farmer's markets alongside their smooth-skinned cousins, red and black currants. It is said that dreaming of gooseberries forewarns embarrassing situations (caused by either your own indiscreet behaviour or that of a foolish companion), but there is no need to be ashamed if you have never tasted this sour, spiky berry. Here's a quick primer to get you started.
Check out our favourite gooseberry foods -- from pies to jams -- in 5 gooseberry recipes.
The gooseberry is a hardy northern fruit that is an English favourite for jams and tarts. Most gooseberry varieties are too tart to be eaten out of hand, but their acidity lends itself beautifully to sauces for fatty fish or meats, such as mackerel and goose. There are many theories about the origin of its name. One derives from the English habit of pairing the berries with goose. Another is based on the French name groseillà maquereau (mackerel currant) because tangy gooseberry sauce is also a traditional accompaniment for mackerel.
Depending on how early summer arrives, gooseberries are available in Canada from June to August. Early small, hard green gooseberries are very tart, loaded with pectin and often blended with soft fruits to help jams and jellies set. These gooseberries also make a tasty chutney for meat, poultry and fish. Some people prefer harvesting gooseberries later, allowing them to ripen and redden to a softer, sweeter stage. Their distinctive sweet-sour flavour works well in pies, either on their own or with other berries, especially blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Gooseberries also make wonderful ice cream and fools.
Gooseberries have a prickly, almost translucent skin that ranges from yellow-green to red. When purchasing them, choose nicely coloured, firm fruit with no blemishes. They will keep in the fridge for up to three days. Wash only when about to use. Gooseberries freeze best whole and should be used when still partially frozen.
To prepare: top and tail with a small knife by cutting away stem and flowers from top of berry then cutting off tail at bottom. Here are a few ways to enjoy gooseberries this summer:
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