Gooseberries: Sunshine in a Jar
Spring is around the corner here as the cherry and apple trees have been pruned, however it also means windy days of chilliness, fog, clouds, rain and growing moss. Luckily these periods are interspersed with hopeful weather and we were able to split the rest of our firewood (Okay- we are about four months late on this).
Looks a little desolate, right? However then comes the breeze followed by sun, then Gooseberries and Cherries.
Also, don't get me wrong- coming from the high plains desert of the Gallatin Valley - I LOVE moss.
On that foggy day I decided to get the gallon bag of gooseberries out of the freezer and make cider. Before picking them last fall, I knew NOTHING about gooseberries except that they were little green berries that grew on bushes. Yes, and no.
We moved here August of 2020 and I noticed this little weird bush with bunches of red berries (like grapes). I didn't do anything about it as we were so busy, but wondered every time I saw it. It's not wise to pick unknown berries and pop them into your mouth after all. Luckily a passing bear didn't notice it or was too full of apples to bother. This past fall I figured out they were a type of gooseberry- that weren't green- and picked them. I believe the local name is Rocky Mountain Gooseberry.
Gooseberry bush- isn't it a wild thing?
Gooseberries are pretty common in North America and there are many types. Hank Shaw, of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook (one of my favorite websites) has an article called Foraging For Gooseberries if you would like to pick some yourself.
I mushed the berries a bit, cold juiced them, and got a pretty even quart of juice. Took a sip, and WOW. Remember Sweet Tarts? This was my immediate thought after recovering. Very good.
This will be an interesting cider, for sure.
When reading up on them, they contain the healthful properties of cherries (melatonin excepted as far as I can tell), and other fruits, in abundance and saw they both contain quercetin, which we've been hearing a lot about. We all know fruit is good for you besides being delicious.
For those that are interested, I used the basic Easy Cherry Cider Recipe from the Prickly Cider website. I also use this for my cherry cider which turns out great.
Here are a few changes I make to the recipe:
I use our pressed apple cider, not store bought (but it's cool he shows how to make it without).
I add about 1 pint of fresh pear juice, also (taking out 1 pint of apple). Our apples seem to benefit from this sweetness.
It's also good to know you really don't need all of the bells and whistles to make cider, but they are handy. Cider from fresh picked fruit, especially, basically ferments itself and this is how it has been done forever, however some additions can make a more sure and consistent outcome.
Think about visiting our local cideries when you're in the neighborhood. Of course, they need to buy cherries for their annual Flathead Cherry Ciders. Or, order your own cherries and make your own cider, too! We're all in this together.
Following is a little gallery of the process- look at the color of that juice! Isn't it beautiful? You don't have to escape into virtual reality for this pleasure. This batch is almost ready for the first rack into a new carboy for final fermentation.
I can't wait to taste Sweet Tart cider, but that's a few months off.
Thanks for reading and subscribing! Don't hesitate to let us know what your experiences are with Gooseberries, or cider making/tasting.
Here's a video of it fermenting away
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