A year or so ago I tried my luck with a couple of Hinnonmaki Red Gooseberry plants to fill in a space recently vacated by a big ugly Red Robin 70s kitsch shrubbery horror. I got about three cups of small berries from them last year, which went into a Christmas gin infusion that was generally received as OK but no patch on a Wilkin & Sons fruity gin.
That little name drop brings me to one of the reasons I thought I’d invest in some gooseberry plants in the first place- Wilkin & Son’s Hot Gooseberry Chutney, which makes a soft French cheese sandwich worth giving up your place in heaven for yet seems scantily available unless you can get to the Tiptree factory every week- and if I did that I’d be fatter and poorer than I am now.
So this year, despite the horrors of all that late snow and later frosts, I was both surprised and thrilled to have a seriously bumper gooseberry haul, currently running at 2kg and counting of fat blood-red fruits. Attempting my own hot, sweet chutney for the autumn cheeseboards was my first port of cookery. I knew I’d never replicate the W&S version perfectly, not least because that is made with green gooseberries, so instead did a quick bit of googling on what flavours are best to combine with these tart little balls of delight. I found quite a few Asian recipes pairing the sharpness of gooseberries with fatty meats like duck or even mackerel which inspired the mix I have thrown together below. I’m soooo pleased with outcome- a hot, sweet jelly which is screaming out to be thrown at a load of creamy cheese or cold turkey leg. I confess I have dipped into one jar today only 2 weeks after making it and it’s good to go already, however the bulk of the jars are staying in a cupboard to hopefully make it to Christmas.
And why is it killer? Because it took me almost a whole playing of Hot Fuss to top and tail the bloody gooseberries………..
Boomboom Killer Gooseberry Chutney
makes about 750ml chutney
Roughly 5 cups/ 750g of fresh gooseberries
2 cups of caster sugar
1/2 cup jam sugar*
350ml cider vinegar
2 star anise
1 large red chilli
1 white onion
Jars, lids, heavy bottomed pan, good oven gloves!
*you can use all caster sugar if you don’t have jam sugar, this just helps the set.
Start off by scrubbing and rinsing a few jars and their lids with hot soapy water. Dry the lids and keep them somewhere clean. Put the jars on a baking tray and into a COLD oven. Set the oven to 100 degrees C.
Wash your gooseberries well and set to the fascinating task of cutting off the stalk and flower ends. This will take ages (roughly a whole album) but it worth the time as those little bits will not cook out into the chutney and will leave the impression of slightly fruity grit upon tasting. Not good.
Finely chop the onion and chilli (keep the seeds in) and combine with all other ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan. Stir well and put on on a high heat until boiling. Keep on a rolling boil for about ten minutes (if not using jam sugar, you need to get past 105 on your sugar thermometer) then transfer into the hot jars and seal. Store in a dark, cool place for at least two weeks before integrating into the best cheese sandwich you ever had 🙂
A note on jarring- you might read a lot about hot water baths, temperature checks, botulism and the like when trying to make your own preserves at home. A lot of that advice seems like overkill to this blogger. I’ve made literally thousands of jars of various things in the last ten years and never used a water bath for it. You heat the jars in the oven both to sterilise them and to prevent the heat from the chutney shocking the glass of the jars into breaking but heat also works to seal them. It’s pretty simple physics: if you use a glass jar with a properly sealing metal lid (or kilner style glass lid) when your jam is still hot then it will seal itself by cooling. Hot air expands- so that little gap of air at the top of your jar is going to effectively get smaller as it cools. If your jar is air tight, this creates a wee bit of pressure which holds the lid in place and excludes fresh oxygen getting in where it might create growing conditions for moulds or bacteria. You know what else inhibits mould and bacteria growth? Acid and sugar. You have those things here too. Don’t sweat the water bath, just keep your jars sealed then refrigerate once opened.
I use a good wadded teatowel to handle the hot jars, which takes some practice and the kind of determination that may only be encouraged by the odd scorched fingertip! Just whip them out of the oven and don’t overfill your ladle when transferring in the chutney/jam as spillage is both wasteful and a sticky bitch to clear up. Remember your teatowel/oven gloves when you put the lids on and if possible give the jar a quick wipe down with a very damp cloth while still warm as any spills will be easier to clean up at this time.
Lastly, leave those jars the hell alone for a good few hours, they stay hot for ages and you will learn all kinds of new swears if you manage to jar up your jam without any burny incidents only to scald yourself half an hour later whilst trying to clean up.