Have you ever had gooseberries (they are also known as ‘ribes’)?
Most of us in the United States have not. ‘During the late 18th and early 19th centuries there was, believe it or not, a “Gooseberry Craze” that began in England and spread to America. At its height, the time, money and passion spent on this humble berry would have made Beatlemania look like a passing fancy.’ (source)
Recently, out of fascination, I planted 2 chubby little Invicta gooseberry bushes. This year, I’m excited that after two years of drought nearly killing them, we had our first real harvest… and what a crop it was!
Now there is an old-fashioned gooseberry pie in the oven!
If I could, I would bottle up the aroma wafting around the kitchen and our house right now! We have never smelled anything quite like it~slightly floral and spicy (like cinnamon)!
What are Gooseberries?
According to Mother Earth News,
“When you first bite into a ripe gooseberry, the tartness of the skin is balanced by the burst of sweet nectar from the flesh of the fruit.”
I think gooseberries are a little like the Sweet Tarts candies of my teens, but clean and fresh and very healthy! They have significantly high amounts of phenolic phytochemicals especially flavones and anthocyanins. These compounds have been found to have numerous health-benefiting effects against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases.
Gooseberries (and currants which we also grow here) are used in tarts, jams, and other desserts. Many think they are even better for eating out-of-hand.
Pulling off those little flower tails from each nickel-sized gooseberry is not necessary at all.
Old-Fashioned Gooseberry Pie Recipe
For many of our country grandparents and great-grandparents, gooseberry pie represents a long-ago beloved time and place. For those whose childhood was spent on a farm or countryside where rambling through the woods with the dogs and picking berries in summer was part of life, it has special memories.
My husband’s Grandma made piecrusts from lard rendered from the hog butchering, and she picked her own gooseberries and canned them. This is very much like her recipe.
- 4-5 cups of any color gooseberries (plus we threw in a large handful or red currants and red jostaberries for more color)
- 1 1/4 cup sweetener (we used 3/4 cup of our own honey)
- 2 teaspoons orange rind (zest)
- 4-5 TBSP tapioca starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder (see how to thicken a sauce)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 TBSP butter or virgin coconut oil
(we loved the Rustic Pear Tart crust so much we used it for this)
- 1 1/3 cups organic all-purpose unbleached flour or favorite healthy GF recipe
- 3 TBSP sugar (we used coconut sugar)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 7 TBSP cold butter, cubed (no substitutes) Grandma used lard rendered from their own hogs
- 2 to 3 TBSP cold water
Directions for Gooseberry Pie Filling:
- Combine all filling ingredients except butter and cornstarch in a large saucepan and place over medium heat
- Cover until gooseberries begin to soften and burst (about 5 minutes.)
- As the berries soften, gently add the cornstarch by first making a slurry
- Add slowly and keep on heat until the filling becomes translucent and has a glossy sheen (approx. 10 minutes)
- Remove from heat, add 2 TBSP butter, and allow to cool while rolling out pastry
Note: I forgot to make the cornstarch ‘slurry’, *Humph!* and had to mash out the resulting lumps, so the poor gooseberries sustained a beating! I think it would be prettier if you could retain more of the appearance of berries.
Directions for the Crust:
- Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl
- Cut in butter until crumbly
- Gradually add cold water, tossing with a fork or hands and finish using hands to form a ball
- Roll out to a circle and transfer to the pie pan
- Crimp edges and add filling. (You may have some extra pie dough for adding stars, hearts, or even your initials)
- Bake at 375° for 40-45 minutes or until your crust is golden brown and flaky
- Check crust to keep from burning
Another note: this isn’t the kind of pie that is perfectly sliceable. You might need to scoop out servings with a spoon. Even so, it’s such an enjoyable treat especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
To grow gooseberries:
Gooseberries do well in cooler climates. It’s best if they are planted in zones 3-5.
If you have room for a shrub that is about 3-4? tall and wide, you should be able to plant your own currants and gooseberries.
Gooseberries and currants are not at all difficult to grow, and they tolerate a wider range of conditions than most fruit plants. Choose a location that receives some afternoon shade. Our plants were purchased at Edible Landscaping.
A friend who lives in Sweden sent me the link to the berry picker they use there!
“…each tree is known by its own fruit.” ~Luke 6: 44
Judith at WholeHearted Home
I got happily distracted as I scrolled down to linkup 🙂 so who knows if I will get there?! I would love to find some gooseberries as they sound so delicious!! Thanks so much for sharing this today.
I worked at a farm through my teen years during the summers, and they had some gooseberries growing there. I now have my own large space to grow things, and a friend who is an avid gardener and expert on what grows well in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, has given me jostaberries and currants to grow. I also planted elderberries, which I got from Jung’s online but have not seen any sign of life yet. Thanks for this article!
Marilyn, just a thought: for elderberries, they need a LOT, LOT, LOT of water maybe for the first year. Most plants will need watered and mulched, but it seemed the elder was even more so! Have fun growing!
I live in the Northern lower of Michigan currently and used to live in the UP. Try planting some service berries (aka sugarplum, shadbush, juneberries). They are amazing and a beautiful landscape decoration between the lovely blossoms in the spring, the colorful summer berries, and the bright orange fall leaves. In fact I think the bare branches are even beautiful in the winter! I have about 10 trees around our yard and they are just starting to ripen and I have picked GALLONS of berries already, with many many more to come. My favorite edible Michigan landscape. These were here when we moved in, but I’d love to add elderberries to the yard as well.
I planted 2 Princess Diana Juneberries and they are both getting pretty good size (4 1/2′ x 28″ wide).the berries form after the flower petals drop, but the berries dry up and drop off. I am wondering if they are too young to bear yet…they are almost 4 years old now.
Thanks for stopping by and telling me about your service berries. Any ideas?
I’ve never had gooseberries, too far south, but I loved this post. The picture with the berry picker is very cool as I’m always interested in old-time homesteading tools. Sometimes more modern ones don’t work exactly as one would expect, and I love when tools have no plastic about them.
Have a great weekend!
I have never seen a gooseberry until today. I always think of the 7 dwarfs in Snow White….”Gooseberry Pie!!! Hurray she stays” I always wondered what it was. Thanks for sharing this bit of knowledge.
I love how God answers our prayers even as we speak them! I was so craving a delicious home made pie after our excursion in the backcountry around us. However, we did not come across a cute little corner store selling homemade pies and ice team so i determined I would just have to make one ! For the first time in perhaps 20 years. So receiving your recipe for this yummy pie and crust is an answer to my prayer ! Thank you !
Sincerely Momma Patricia
As a child in Illinois my mom would look for these wild in the woods. She always made a gooseberry pie for my dad. It was a little sour for me as a kid, but with a spoonful of sugar sprinkled on it, it was good.
After moving to the west I once looked for gooseberries and did not find them. They did have them raised in Oregon and finally got to have a pie about 10 years ago.
Nice child hood memories.
Do you know what that tool is called shown for picking gooseberries? Looks like it would make them much easier to pick!
I am making a gooseberry pie tonight, but mine has a double crust.
I do not know, but isn’t it a beauty? I’m sorry…if you ever find out would you let me know?
One word … yum!
I’m splashin’ around for ideas to splatter some joy into our summer. I would love to hear your creative ideas to add a bit of zest to our scorchin’ summer. Join me in splashing.
I have more wild gooseberry bushes than I know what to do with! I live in western Wisconsin and just recently found out what all those berries were! Lol My question is, “do you pick them when they look like white or red grapes?” And does it make a difference? Thanks,
Hi, Renee!!! Our bushes are a green variety, but there are pink and redder ones, too! Our green ones became translucent and whitish green when at the peak of sweetness! Wonderful to pop in the moth fresh! Enjoy..I am jealous 😉
Please let me know your thoughts on this and see if we can work something out. It would be so very much appreciated. Thank you again! Gina
Good morning Renee! I live in Indiana and grew up picking gooseberries at my grandmas house. My mom and grandma used to make the best gooseberry pie. I am having trouble trying to find gooseberries. Would you consider selling any of yours as I would like to make a pie for my aging mama as a reminder of her younger days when she did it for us? I know this would require shipping. Please let me know your thoughts on this and see if we can work something out. It would be so very much appreciated. Thank you again! Gina
I live in eastern Tennessee, zone 7, and started out with two bushes. My husband kept on planting more from the original two. The last two years the branches are laden with berries. I use them for pie and various jams like blackberry with gooseberry jam, or regular gooseberry jam. I don’t use pectin, and the sweet tart flavor is Devine. If not using pectin, be sure they are about 20 per cent green. Under-ripened fruit has more pectin.
Oh, Judy, you are making my mouth water! I have so loved our gooseberries through the years! It is good to remember the high pectin content!! Divine, indeed!
https://www.amazon.com/Linden-Sweden-Jonas-Berry-Picker/dp/B00176HU90 I live in Sweden and it is blueberry picking time. They are only a couple inches from the ground so these berry pickers are a wonderful thing to save you from backaches. I am sure we bought ours cheaper and I would google around first. I think they are just called Berry Pickers.
Thank you, Bonnie, for telling me about that berry picker! I added a link to the one you recommended to the post!
Thanks for your article provided a lot of information. I like your post, keep going to bring good things to life. They are extremely beautiful.
I first had gooseberries when I was 4 and I really like them. Thanks for the pie recipe!
I hope you get to make a gooseberry pie! Very much one to win a state Fair prize!