Red gooseberries are deliciously sweet when eaten fresh, almost similar to grapes, but with a hint of sharpness and their unique tangy flavour that some people love, and others prefer to avoid.
However, when cooked, and especially when combined with sugar to make jam, the result is a wonderful sweet fruity flavour without a hint of the sharpness of raw gooseberries, making red gooseberry jam a great way to preserve and enjoy a bumper crop of gooseberries.
Watch How To Make Red Gooseberry Jam
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Red gooseberry jam is a great way of enjoying a bumper crop of gooseberries, and if you have friends and family that find gooseberries a little sharp to taste, turning gooseberries into jam may change their minds. The sharpness disappears completely, and the taste is deliciously sweet, not dissimilar in my view to strawberry jam. This video goes step by step through my gooseberry jam recipe, including my method for sealing the jam jars so that the jam stores well.
Gooseberries are one of my favourite British fruits to grow. Not just because they are easy to care for and crop heavily, but because I really enjoy the taste of fresh gooseberries. Red varieties are particularly sweet, almost grape like. Birds and squirrels think so too. I find the biggest challenge with growing gooseberries is keeping the wildlife off my bushes. When I have not covered my bushes using a secure net, I have lost the whole harvest.
To start making the jam, wash the gooseberries before topping and tailing them. Freshly picked gooseberries will likely have a little stalk left on them where they attached to the plant, and some brown leaves on their end, which are the remains of the flower blossom. I find the fastest way of doing this is with a sharp pair of kitchen scissors. I prepared 1 kg worth of gooseberries, and the process took me a little over an hour. To make the process more enjoyable, I often prepare the fruit the night before making jam, whilst listening to the radio or watching some videos.
I prepare all the ingredients, and the jam jars, before starting cooking. There are not many ingredients, just the gooseberries, caster sugar, water, and a little lime or lemon juice.
To sterilise the jam jars, I washed them in hot soapy water, rinsed them thoroughly, and sterilised them in a warm oven set to a little over 100 degrees C. They stayed in the oven for the duration of cooking the jam.
Don’t forget to place a small plate in the freezer. This is used later to check whether the jam has set.
Start cooking the jam by adding the gooseberries, water, and lime juice to a saucepan. There is specialist jam making equipment, but I make do with what I have in my kitchen. I chose the pan with the largest base I own, as the wide base helps the fruit cook evenly.
The first step is to break apart the gooseberries. The pan is put on a high heat and brought to the boil, and then with a reduced heat, left to simmer for 15 minutes. The gooseberries will naturally start to break apart in the cooking process.
After 15 minutes, and with the heat still low, add the sugar. When making jam I am always aware of the large quantity of sugar used, but this is important to help the jam store well. I enjoy making compotes too, which require much less sugar, but these will only keep for a few days in the fridge.
After ten minutes on a low heat, and by stirring frequently, all the sugar should have dissolved in the liquid. During stirring, I pressed any gooseberries that had not exploded against the side of the pan to help them fall apart.
It is now the time to boil vigorously, the important process that helps the jam to set. Turn the heat up high, and stir frequently to ensure that none of the fruit is sticking to the bottom of the pan. It should be a vigorous boil. If any brown scum starts to float on the surface, this should be removed with a spoon.
Whilst the jam was boiling vigorously, I started to simmer the lids to sterilise them. To sterilise the lids, I washed them like the jam jars, but rather than putting them in the oven, I boiled them for 5 minutes in a saucepan of boiling water.
After ten minutes vigorous boiling, it is time to test for setting. Take the small plate out of the freezer, and pour on it a little of the jam. After 30 seconds or so, test whether the jam is runny, and wrinkles when touched.
On my first test, my jam was a little on the runny side, so I continued heating the jam for another 5 minutes. I quickly cleaned the plate, returned it to the freezer, so it would be ready for the second test.
To be honest, I could see by eye that the jam was ready in the pan. It was clearly much thicker. The plate test confirmed this, with the jam holding its shape on the plate and the skin wrinkling.
For jarring, the jam, the jam jars, and the lids should all be hot. I removed the jam jars from the oven, and ladled into them the piping hot jam mixture. A jam funnel makes this process much cleaner, I didn’t use one, but any mess can be wiped away using a clean piece of kitchen paper.
The jam jars should be filled up to their neck, leaving about one and half centimetres gap between the jam and the top of the jar. Before screwing on the lids, I made sure that there was no jam left on the screw thread or at the top of the jars, which may stop the jars sealing properly. The lids were hot, as they had just been taken out of boiling water. I screwed these tightly on to the top of the jars.
As the air trapped in the jars cools, it will contract, and this contracting sucks down the lids causing them to pop. A jar with an air tight seal has a lid that does not bounce when pressed in the middle.
To get a strong air tight seal, I boil my filled and sealed jam jars. To do this, I placed a clean kitchen towel in the bottom of a saucepan, and placed on top of this my warm (not hot) jam jars. Allow the jam jars to cool before doing this, otherwise they make crack when the cold water is added. The cold water needs to cover the top of the jam jars.
Put the pan over a high heat and bring to the boil, before turning the heat down and simmering for half an hour.
When the jars are removed from the water, if the process has worked successfully, the jars will pop as they cool, which is the sound of the lids being sucked downwards. If the lids have not popped when the jar is cold, the process has not worked. For these jars, check the lids are screwed on tightly, and try repeating the method. For jars that have sealed, these can be stored for a few months in a cool cupboard.
That is, if the jam is not eaten before. Whether as a sweet treat for yourself, or a gift for friends and family, red gooseberry jam has a lovely deep red colour and is deliciously sweet to taste.