We began pease on Sunday, but our gatherings are very small, not at all like the gathering in the “Lady of the Lake.” Yesterday I had the agreeable surprise of finding several scarlet strawberries quite ripe; had you been at home, this would have been a pleasure lost. There are more gooseberries and fewer currants than I thought at first. We must buy currants for our wine.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
June 6, 1811
In his treatise on period fruits, Mark Harris writes, “Gooseberries (Ribes reticulata) and currants (Ribes nigrum and Ribes rubrum) are better known today in Europe than in tne US. As they grew wild in the cooler northern temperate zone of Europe but were somewhat sour, they were late to cultivation, and largely unknown in the warmer Mediterranean regions. The gooseberry was first cultivated in England by Edward I from 1276 A.D. where it was grown as a dessert berry (188), though it has never become widely popular in France and the low countries except as a sauce for fish (189). Gooseberries are most often green, but also occur in white, yellow, red and purple varieties.”
With the proper amount of sugar, these tart fruits can be made into any number of delightful desserts.
Take some green gooseberries, put them in a jar, set it in boiling water, till they are soft. Then rub them through a seive, and to every lb. of pulp add a lb. of sugar. Let it boil two minutes, if it boil longer it will spoil the colour.
Good luck to your jamming.
Mrs. Craven, from Martha Lloyd’s Household book
1 lb Gooseberries
3/4 lb Sugar
Stem gooseberries and wash carefully. Drain. Add sugar. Heat very slowly in a covered container until juice begins to form. Uncover and boil until juice sheets from spoon.
Enjoyed this article? Browse our giftshop at janeaustengiftshop.co.uk for Regency recipe books!