there’s really only one reason in my book (blog?) to grow gooseberries. sure jam is nice, and i wouldn’t shake my spoon at a serious gooseberry chutney. but the reason i brought my three little gooseberry sticks home from the nursery that day (nay, first begged my neighbor who manages our local gardening shop to order them against his advice that they’re not easy to get started and maintain in our neck of the woods) four years ago and nursed them through that awful tomato blight that terrorized the land in 2010, various forms of fungus and other i-don’t-know-what-the-hell-happened-but-all-the-gooseberries’-leaves-fell-off-overnight-things. was. for. pies.
(note, that’s the first time i ever did that period after each word thing because i don’t particularly care for it, but alas, it’s warranted here. unequivocally.)
before we get into it, i feel i should say a few things directly to you peeps who think you don’t like fruit pies. at the risk of sounding ferocious, i think it’s because you haven’t had one of my fruit pies. you see, fruit pies do not need a lot of anything other than the choices of fruits, a bit of sugar and a kick-ass pie crust.
this particular pie, gooseberries, sugar, and a sweet buttery crust that melts in your mouth and unabashedly soaks up, without the least bit of sogginess, the full-fat cream that is essential to pour all over it, is perfection. there is no sourness quite like the sourness of gooseberries, they were, i believe, created for the sheer joy of eating them with cream and crust.
i call this nigel’s gooseberry pie as this summer continues my love affair with the writings of nigel slater. an english gardener-cook whose prose on life in his garden and kitchen make me swoon. and the man can make pie.
nigel’s gooseberry pie
adapted from tender volume II
- 2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 cup cold butter
- 2 medium egg yolks
- 8 inch tart pan or low-sided pie tin
- 1 & 1/2 quarts gooseberries, topped and tailed
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- to make crust follow directions for perfect pie crust. add together dry ingredients and follow as directed to incorporate butter. add egg yolks in place of the water in the perfect pie crust recipe. technique is the same. place two dough discs in fridge for 30 minutes.
- after 30 minutes roll out bottom, tuck into tart pan and place in freezer for 30 minutes. preheat oven to 390 degrees.
- take crust from freezer, poke the bottom all over with a fork and place a sheet of parchment paper inside. add dried beans or pie beads and blind bake for 15 minutes or until the crust starts to get golden.
- while bottom crust is baking roll out top, place on plate and put in fridge, not freezer.
- meanwhile place water, sugar and whole topped and tailed gooseberries in a wide-bodied sauce pan and bring to the boil. simmer just for a minute or so, tossing gently as you go. cook the berries only just until they turn slightly opaque, do not let them burst. take them out with a slotted spoon as soon as they lighten up. they may not lighten up all at once (possibly some are of a more serious nature) so begin to take the ones out that do while the others are still heavy colored.
- turn up the heat and bring the remaining liquid to a gel. gooseberries are very high in pectin, trust me when i say bring to a fierce boil for a solid two minutes and you’re good. let cool.
- once bottom pie crust is slightly cool add gooseberries, pour the gel over, evenly distributing.
- let the top crust warm up for a minute or so from the fridge and place over top of pie. you can tuck the sides right over the existing sides. use it all and don’t be concerned about a thick edge. this is a very crumbly, soft and forgiving crust. as long as you followed directions for perfect pie crust and have not fiddled with it too much up to this point, you can afford some pressing and maneuvering here and you will still win friends and influence people with this crust.
- slice two or three air holes artfully in the top and place in oven, bake at 390 degrees for 20 minutes. take out of oven and sprinkle, generously, sugar across the top. don’t skip this part. gooseberries are very sour and this sugar is imperative. bake for 5 more minutes until the whole thing is golden and the juices are bubbling up from the openings.
let cool. and trust me when i say this; serve with heavy cream, it is as essential as the rest. and you might as well be proactive and serve it in a bowl with a spoon.
if you are not growing gooseberries, or have an extra quart or so of cream layin’ around, go to your local farmers market now and look around. you need this in your life.