It will soon be gooseberry season: make a wonderful jam

JP McMahon: ‘The first time I tasted a salted gooseberry my eyes widened’

It is probably through the prism of a green gooseberry that we can distinguish between old and new trends in Ireland. I don't think anything other than a steamed gooseberry pudding could define an older attitude to Irish cooking. Desserts such as these litter older cookbooks. That's not to say they aren't delectable, but who makes steamed puddings anymore? Perhaps at Christmas time?

Newer ways of using gooseberries may seem more minimal. Slicing and salting them and serving the delicious tart slices with raw shellfish such as scallops or oysters.

This tendency may seem like a trick from a new Nordic manual of cooking, but, salting fruit, such as a tomato or a cucumber, is not exactly a revolutionary act. The first time I tasted a salted gooseberry my eyes widened. I think it was the sheer strangeness of this oral engagement. I haven’t been able to look back and I would encourage you to do likewise.

Get salting

Each year, the moment gooseberry season arrives – usually from June onwards – we get salting. Most recipes for salting will use between 5 per cent and 10 per cent salt in a brine. I find 10 per cent salt too much, so I make a 5 per cent brine, which is 50g of sea salt per litre of water.


Warm the brine until the salt dissolves and then pour over the washed gooseberries.

You can also pickle your gooseberries with white vinegar. Heat the vinegar with some peppercorns and fennel seed, then cool a little before pouring over. If the berries are very tart you may want to add a few tablespoons of sugar to the vinegar.

If you are partial to sweet things, maybe gooseberry jam is just the thing for you.

How to make gooseberry jam

Place 2kg gooseberries and 2kg sugar in a pot. Keep on a low heat until the water begins to burst out from the fruit.

Turn up the heat and then cook until you reach 105 degrees. If you don’t have a jam thermometer, just boil for 20 minutes. I find that’s enough.

Sieve the jam if you like but I tend not to.

Use this jam to make gooseberry fool: meringue nests, whipped cream and a few spoons of your own gooseberry jam, all crushed together.