Gooseberries are a weird kind of thing. I'd always known that they existed because they're referenced in fairy tales and novels (Jane Austen comes specifically to mind, although I'm sure there are others) and other places. Until relatively recently, though, I'd never tried one. A permit is required to ship gooseberry plants (or currant plants) into this state, and quarrantines exist in several other states. There used to be a federal ban on these plants due to their status as an intermediate host for an unpleasant disease of the white pine. You can read something informative about it here. It jives with other information I've read about it elsewhere, but this is a food blog not a botany blog so I'm not going to post every research link I can find here. You have the Internets. You have the power. Anyway, it is possible to grow them in Massachusetts and it is possible therefore to buy local gooseberries in Massachusetts. Unfortunately the harvest season is painfully short. Up until last year I always missed it. Last year I bought some and used them, but I didn't post about it and I have no idea why. I think I made some jam and never ate it. This year I've made two things so far - some muffins, which I'll post at a later date, and this Elizabethan-era tart, which I made this past weekend and am posting here.
This was a really tasty tart, and if you can get your hands on some gooseberries I highly recommend making this pie. It does kind of look like a moonscape. That's okay. Your guests will not care. It's a pretty simple pie, not that different from any other closed-crust summer pie you might make. You just mix up your filling - sugar, fruit, a little spice - put it in your crust and go. A modern recipe would tell you to add a little cornstarch to soak up the juices created by the berries and by the sugar as it melts, and that would indeed be cleaner and neater. This is a medieval recipe, so if you're trying to re-create something historic then leave the cornstarch out.
We got a higher than usual turnout at Sunday dinner, so I had to get something like twelve slices out of this. Well, actually, I asked Caitlin to get twelve slices out of this. My inability to make anything pretty and my clumsiness with pastry made me reluctant to get creative with cutting. Caitlin came through, though. I think it would have been more generous to do eight slices, but we got twelve and were glad of it.
Gooseberry Tart (serves 12; approx. $1.04/serving)
1 double-crust pie crust recipe of your choice - I used a family recipe, you can use whatever works for you (even store-bought)
1 pint large gooseberries, washed
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins
- Pie plate
- Mixing bowl
- Rolling pin
- Preheat your oven to 425︒.
- Combine the gooseberries, sugar, spices and raisins in the mixing bowl.
- Line your pie plate with one of the crusts.
- Fill the crust with the contents of the bowl.
- Roll out the second crust and top the pie with it. Seal and crimp.
- Vent the crust and bake until golden. I did two things that are kind of optional for you.
- I brushed the crust with an egg wash. This was to keep the filling from seeping through. I should have brushed the bottom crust with egg yolk too, but I was feeling a little harried and I didn't. Note - the egg wash was not called for in the original and is a deviation from the Elizabethan procedure.
- I put a baking sheet under the pie plate in case of spill-over. You don't have to do this. You're the one who has to clean your oven.
- I served the pie at room temperature.