In Afrikaans, they are called “appelliefies”, and the direct translation is “little apple loves”.
Cape Gooseberries are endemic and we haven’t planted any in our garden. They just grow, and are one of the many gifts we receive from our garden.
As a small child, not long after we moved from East London, we would travel from Grahamstown to visit farmer friends for the Gonubie Agricultural Show. And, along with my memories of Dad judging the flower arrangements, my always bidding for the largest egg at the end of the show, watching the gymkhana, and the convoy of cars, draped with beautiful women (or so they seemed to me) over their bonnets, I remember Auntie Molly’s gooseberry jam.
These were the memories I associated with gooseberries, until more recently. I was reminded, by a school friend, that my mother used to make a gooseberry fridge tart, and only when Karen recounted her story, did I realise why I had forgotten: it was really sour and I didn’t like it. Nor did Karen; and it’s her one abiding memory of my mother and a weekend she spent with our family in Grahamstown!
Gooseberries are tart – full of beta carotine and Vitamin C – and they are delicious fresh and in a jam. With our first gooseberries, I added them to salads and we also had them for breakfast, with yoghurt.
As with most things, one can have too much: even with one gooseberry bush, the berries began to come thick and fast, so spurred on by a fellow villager, I thought I’d have a go at jam.
Making jam with berries is different from making marmalade (more of that, soon) because they don’t need much cooking, and in the case of gooseberries, because they are not just full of vitamin C, they’re also full of pectin. This means that it’s easy to over-cook your jam and end up with jars of something that’s rock hard, and definitely not jam. The added challenge of this jam-making session was that I didn’t have –
a) a recipe for Cape Gooseberry jam (Mum’s Good Housekeeping recipe book doesn’t talk about Cape Gooseberries, but it does give the basics of making different types of jams and preserves); and
b) with just one bush, I had a really small quantity of gooseberries to play with.
This was a test of my ability to work out ratios (which, for someone who did not do Mathematics beyond year 9 at school, is quite hectic) as well as culinary skills: until this, the closest I had got to making jam, was marmalade!
So, this is what I learned: equal quantities of fruit and sugar. Put these in a pot of an appropriate size and then add a two thirds of the base quantity of water (remember that 100g = 100ml of water), and then cook as you would any jam. Bring to the boil reduce the heat and simmer until setting point is reached (watch carefully – with a small quantity, that happens more quickly).
To test whether setting point is reached, put a little of the mixture on to a cold, china/ceramic plate and put it into the fridge for about 10 minutes. If, when you take it out, and you skim your finger across the top, it wrinkles, your jam is ready.
Allow the jam to stand for 10 to 15 minutes and then bottle in sterilized jars and enjoy!
Of course, gooseberry jam can also be turned into a wonderful gooseberry tart – a desert nowhere near as sour as the dessert my mother dished up for our family and poor Karen in the late 1970’s!