When you have an allotment or vegetable garden, you can harvest and cook your ingredients when you choose, experiencing their flavours at each stage of their growth even when under-ripe. In June, the crops of fruit bushes and trees require selective thinning; both gooseberries and apples will grow bigger if some of their number is removed. Don’t throw these on the compost heap – hard, green gooseberries and sweet-scented, creamy-white elder blossom combine to suggest the flavour of the Muscat grape used to make sweet dessert wines and makes a delicious jelly.
Green gooseberry ‘muscat’ jelly
Makes about 1 litre of jelly (roughly 3 x 350ml jars)
- 500g green gooseberries
- 500ml water
- 500g (approx) unbleached, granulated sugar
- 6 elderflower crowns, picked over to remove insects and tied up in a muslin bag (if you can’t get hold of flowers, use 50ml elderflower cordial instead)
Place the gooseberries in a large preserving pan and add the water, simmer until the gooseberries have burst. Turn off the heat and allow to cool a little, then add the elderflowers in their bag (or the cordial). If using flowers taste the gooseberry mixture now and again (start after 5 minutes) to make sure the Muscat taste is not becoming too intense. When you are satisfied with the flavour pour the contents of the pan into a jelly bag or into a colander with a clean jay cloth draped across it. Drain for several hours (don’t squeeze!) and finally weigh out 250g of sugar for every 250ml of juice and place beside the stove. Return the juice to the cleaned pan and gradually over a medium heat add the sugar stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil fast until the setting point is reached at between 104 degrees and 105 degrees. Pour into hot, sterilised jars. Eat on toast or use as a glaze for open fruit tarts later in the season.
Words Jojo Tulloh
Illustration Sarah Young