Tart gooseberries, in season during the cold weather months, are wonderful sweetened up in jam. Gooseberry jam sets up easily and this one makes just a small batch that you can keep in the fridge to diversify your breakfast lineup.
Gooseberries grow in cold climates, and they're featured in the cuisines of Scandinavia, Britain, and, yes, Central and Eastern Europe, making this an old-world Ashkenazi ingredient. They have a firm skin, like a cherry tomato, and are delicate and sour tasting. Because of their tart flavor, gooseberries are amenable to being sweetened up in a jam. They're among the fruits that are rich in pectins, the thing that makes jam gel up nicely, so they're a great foray into jam making. Gooseberry jam is great over yogurt or spread on toast.
It's not easy to find them, but they just might show up in local markets in the wintertime. There are several varieties of gooseberries, from tart green and yellow ones to sweeter red ones. Here we're using the more sour, light-colored ones (green, yellow, or orange). This recipe makes just one small jar of refrigerator jam, so no need to can it.
A quick jam-making primer
If you've never made jam before, you should know that it's absolutely not one of those patchke things that people like me heroically undertake because we just can't leave well enough alone. Jam making is actually ridiculously simple and the lazy thing to do when you just want a kosher organic jam to go on your kids' nut butter but that requires a trip to a separate grocery store. Okay, I'm overselling a little. Some fruits gel (that is, get jammy) more easily than others, and it is definitely possible to burn jam into a rubbery or singed mess, as I have done any number of times. But for the most part, all that's involved in making jam is cooking fruit with water and sweetener for fifteen minutes or so.
For canning safety purposes, sugar is needed as a preservative and to reach the correct pH levels. For freezer jam, preserved in the cold, this is much less of an exact science. If you're making a jam to eat right away and store in the fridge (or freezer), as we are here, you can adjust the sweetener to your preference.
How to make goosberry jam
To make gooseberry jam, you'll combine the fruit with water and sugar, bring it to a boil to dissolve the sugar, then simmer until the fruit is softened. The gooseberries may not burst completely, but they'll release lots of tiny white seeds into the syrup and you'll be able to burst them by touching them with the back of a spoon. Because gooseberries are rich in pectin and gel so well, you do want to be sure not to overcook them. Ten minutes should be plenty. They'll firm up a lot more as they cool, too.
Looking for more Ashkenazi recipes?
- Israeli Sweet Cheese and Raisin Blintzes - the Ashkenazi classic in its Israeli evolution
- Sweet Dairy Noodle Kugel - the doyenne of Ashkenazi food
- Bakery-Style Sufganiyot - so what if it's not Chanukah? In the old country they called fruit-filled doughnuts ponchik and smartly had them whenever they could
Gooseberry Jam (parve)
- 1 pint gooseberries - 300 g
- 1 cup granulated sugar - 200 g
- ½ cup water - 120 ml
- In a small pot, combine the rinsed berries, sugar, and water.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.
- When boiling, stir well and reduce the heat to low.
- Cook at a simmer for 7-10 minutes, until the berries are soft when pressed with a spoon and begin to release small, white seeds.
- Transfer to a clean jar to cool. The jam will set considerably during the cooling process. Store in the refrigerator.