If you live in the Midwest, chances are gooseberry season is upon you! The ones we have growing in our woods are known as Missouri Gooseberries, and are green when unripe, fading to a deep purple when they are at their peak.
You can harvest these beauties at all stages, but when green they are extremely sour and astringent. As they begin to ripen, the flavor mellows to a mild tartness, and when a deep purple, they taste like a tiny plum. After finally identifying these plants growing in our woods, more exploring around our land led us to discover a lot of thickets of them.
Yesterday, Tad and I decided to go out and check on the status of them and were pleased to find many ripe ones. Harvesting them was no easy task, though, as the stems are very spiny, and the ripest of the fruits will fall off of the shrub no matter how careful you are.
Add in a multitude of ticks, dense undergrowth, and high humidity, and you have a glorious adventure of foraging for wild foods.
So if you plan to go looking for wild gooseberries, wear jeans to protect from the vicious brambles (although you will still get poked and scratched to no end), do not expect to get a huge bounty of a harvest, and do an intensive tick check after it is all said and done.
After harvesting, the gooseberries still have two stems on them which need to be removed. Next time, I think I may just toss them into my foodmill to see how that works... destemming the 1lb of berries we got took a really, really long time.
It turns out that our harvest was just enough to make one fantastic gooseberry pie.
3 cups of gooseberries
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
A pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Crush the gooseberries and combine them with sugar, honey, cornstarch, spices, and salt.
3. Cook over a low heat and stir until the mixture thickens
4. After lining your pie pan with pastry dough, pour the mixture into it. Scatter bits of the butter throughout the filling
5. Cover with the top layer of pastry, cut slits, crimp the edges, and bake at 450 for 5 to 10 minutes
6. Knock the heat down to 350 degrees and bake until golden brown
The only pie pan I have is a deep dish one, hence why the pie looks so flat. But boy was it good! For this recipe, you can use all green/unripe berries and adjust the amount of sugar you add to them. Same goes for using entirely ripe berries, as the filling may need less sugar.
Since we used a variety of berries, ranging from green to deep purple, 3/4 cup of sugar turned out to be the magic number. It was sweet enough to appease Tad, while tart enough to keep me happy at the same time.
This was the second time I have made pie crust from scratch. The first time was a chewy disaster. This time it was a flakey masterpiece. I followed the steps listed here, so if you are afraid of making your own pie dough (like I was), check that link out.
Want to see what other people are doing with their harvests? Check out Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard.