Ribes oxyacanthoides (Canadian Gooseberry) which is in the same family as currents. Have you eaten them before? Heard of them? I feel like they’re a forgotten berry here in Alberta. I haven’t eaten them since my Grandma would make jam with them when I was a kid, so back in the late 80s. I’m dating myself there. Many people have told me “Oh yeah I remember when my Grandma would make that too”. I’ve read that many homestead locations will have current or gooseberry bushes in the yard as this was a common berry to have back then. It’s a very tart taste but of course full of antioxidants and vitamins. I’m guessing it just got easier to buy sweeter berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries) or go to a you-pick farm for saskatoons or raspberries. But what about poor gooseberries? I’ll tell ya, the jam I just made tasted just as good as I remember in my childhood and it should make a comeback! I suspect the real reason it has been lost through the decades, is that it is difficult to pick. The gooseberry branches are heavily thick with thorns that really prick you. I am enjoying a taste of my heirloom jam on bread as I write this blog post for you.
Wild Gooseberry Bushes are ABUNDANT this Summer
I think 2020 must be the year of the Gooseberry here on the Prairies. I have seen it pop up all over our property where I haven’t seen it before. It was easy to identify in early Spring as it was the first plant to leaf out, and later was covered in green-yellow blossoms. So I made mental notes of all the places it was growing wild here.
I read that tame gooseberries produce only green berries, and wild produces green to purple. I was waiting for the berries to ripen more and to pick once they were purple; however I found as soon as they turned purple either birds snagged them or worms crawled through them. I was fortunate enough to gather some purple berries but then I decided to just go for it and pick a few cups of green ones too. I was too antsy to make my favourite childhood jam and didn’t want to risk losing them all. If you’re planning to go pick some gooseberries, ensure you’re wearing gloves. Those little devils will prick you lots. After washing the berries you have to remove the stems and tails which is also tedious. The berries can be consumed raw but I warn you, they are tart. My 2 year old son still kept sneaking ones to eat but only a few.
How I Made The Jam
To make the jam, I weighed the tart berries and then weighed out almost equal parts cane sugar. The berries contain loads of pectin, so no need to add more. Finally, over medium heat in my saucepan, I heated my wild berries and mashed them up for 5 minutes. I slowly added the sugar while stirring constantly. Once at the final stage, while doing the cold spoon test, I poured my jam into a sterilized canning jar. I didn’t bother processing however as I planned to eat it soon!
Traditional Ways To Consume
So I made a fresh sourdough boule for the next morning’s breakfast to eat with butter and our gooseberry jam! Kids and mom approved! I also read online that a traditional English way is to eat it is with shortbread cookies, so naturally I made our traditional shortbread cookie recipe, which is usually reserved just for Christmastime. I enjoyed that with a cup of tea. It is also commonly consumed with poultry as more of a chutney.
I will now call this my heirloom gooseberry jam as I feel it was a common jam made by our ancestors, but left in the olden days with them. If you happen to see gooseberry jam at the farmer’s market then give it a try! Good luck finding some wild gooseberries to forage… better go look quick as the birds will likely have them all gone by the end of this week! Folk legend say the gooseberries are ripe for picking just before the wild strawberries are ripe. So I’ll be in the wild strawberry patch next week… then the wild raspberry patch! Happy summer and jam eating!
Here I am out picking the berries, and I am sure my Grandma, Great Grandma and Great Great Grandma are smiling down at me trying to replicate their jam.