Summer berries have a tendency to arrive all at once and overwhelm you. Before they are even cooked, they have to be picked and this always takes more time than is usually available -there are just too many other garden jobs to do in late June - my picking always seems to happen in a mad rush rather than the therapeutic ideal of zinging perfectly ripe specimens into a bowl.
This week the fridge was completely overloaded with four kinds of berries. We ate raw redcurrants and tayberries on our breakfast porridge and I stood over a preserving pan on a scorching hot day turning musky berries into tall jars of blackcurrant jelly, all the while telling myself that in the winter I would be thankful. I froze lots of redcurrants for a summer pudding, to be made when the occasion demands and there was also this gooseberry jelly, which goes underneath a thick gooseberry fool of yoghurt and double cream.
When served in individual glasses it makes a nice variation on the traditional fool. You need to start making this pudding at least four hours ahead of lunch or dinner.
Making gooseberry jelly is especially satisfying as it uses up the juice that would otherwise be wasted or that might make the fool a bit sloppy. It’s not a new idea, Jane Grigson (again) quotes Kettners Book of the Table (1877) “the water must not be thrown away, being rich with the finest part of the fruit, that if left to stand it will turn to jelly.” I helped mine along a bit with some gelatine.
Gooseberry fool and jelly puddings
500g gooseberries, topped and tailed
100g granulated sugar
175ml double cream
100ml thick Greek style yoghurt
1 tablespoons of elderflower cordial (or use a couple of elderflower crowns cooked with the fruit if they are still in bloom near you)
3 leaves of gelatine
Top and tail the gooseberries (I use a thin serrated knife or a pair of kitchen scissors) and place them in a pan with a little water (just covering the bottom of the fruits) and the sugar. Simmer gently until the fruits burst apart and are soft. Mash them a little with a fork and strain through a sieve, reserving the liquid. Remove the pulp and leave to cool. Now whilst the pulp cools, make the jelly.
Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water. When the leaves have softened, squeeze the leaves, which will be gluey and plastic and drop them into the bowl of gooseberry syrup which should still be hot (if you don’t do this bit straightaway you will have to warm up your syrup on the stove, that’s fine, just make sure you don’t let it boil). Stir well until the gelatine has dissolved and add the elderflower cordial at this point. Pour the syrup into individual glasses (I find the small, unsmashable French ones work well for picnics. Cover and refrigerate.
When the jelly has set, the next day or a few hours later, whip the cream and swirl it into the gooseberry mash with the yoghurt. Spoon the fool on top of the jelly. Serve with a sweet, homemade biscuit if possible. My sister made some delicious ginger biscuits for our picnic.