I have had a love/hate relationship with our gooseberries. At first it was hate, because of this.
Try weeding around those thorns. Ouch.
Then it was love, because of this.
Golden jelly, a soft and silky lavender infused gooseberry jelly that I made last year with a recipe from here. It was spectacular, on buttered toast or with cheddar cheese. The only problem was, by the time I grudgingly thought of doing something with the gooseberries, the birds had eaten most of them, and all I could harvest was 3/4 of a pound.
This year I have been watching those gooseberries with an eagle eye, just waiting for the day I could pick them and make a much bigger batch of Golden Jelly. That day came last week, and after an afternoon of picking I had 11 pounds of berries. Visions of jelly danced in my head. But before those visions could become reality, every single one of those gooseberries needed to be topped and tailed. Sigh.
But the job got done, and the jelly got made, and Kim and I looked proudly at the 9 jars of pink gold jelly.
Syrup. It didn't set.
This is a mystery to me. I did the proper tests while it was cooking: I dropped a small spoonful on an ice-cold plate from the freezer, waited for a minute, then ran my finger through it. The jelly wrinkled, just like it was supposed to. But after processing - syrup. Tasty syrup, but syrup all the same.
So I opened all the jars, poured the syrup back into the pot, added some liquid pectin, following the directions for failed jelling, and tried all over again.
I left the jars, hoping they might transform into syrup as they cooled. No such luck. Then I had a brainwave. Syrup can be good. Syrup can be a cordial. So we poured a bit of the syrup into a couple of glasses, topped with bubbly water and voila - a refreshing, fragrant summer drink.
We were so excited that the next day we brought along a jar of syrup and a couple of bottles of San Pellegrino when we went to see friends for dinner. We lined up the glasses, cracked open the bubbly water, then opened up the jar of syrup.
Jelly. What?! Soft jelly, to be sure, but definitely jelly.
So when we got home we checked all the jars that the day before were syrup. They were jelly.
It's a mystery.