In the dappled shade of an enormous cooking apple tree sits the gooseberry patch. Three sprawling bushes that produce an abundance of bright green, delicately striped berries. They dangle from the branches like Japanese lanterns. Neighbouring the gooseberries at the moment is an untamed bed of nettles (that we haven’t had a chance to strim and tidy yet) and the apiary. That, coupled with the copious amount of deep thorns on the bushes, has made harvesting the berries a little more challenging than usual this year. Nevertheless, we have had a couple of (cautious) picking sessions.
The first harvest was a few weeks ago, when the fruits were under-ripe and perfect for cooking. We turned a few handfuls into a tangy compote, gently flavoured with elderflower from the little tree that grows behind the gooseberry plot. It made for a tasty accompaniment to pan-fried and crispy-skinned mackerel. It was also rather good as the filling for a feather-light sponge cake. The rest of the gooseberries were squirrelled away in the freezer, ready for drenching with sugar and using in crumbles, cakes and jam throughout the year ahead.
Without doubt though, our favourite use for gooseberries comes with the second harvest, when the fruits are ripe-to-bursting and full of juice. It is at this point that we like to transform the hairy little orbs into a great summer thirst quencher. Raw gooseberry juice is delicious: grassy, with a tart, sherbet-like quality. Combined with a small amount of raw honey, which brings a little extra sweetness and complexity, and topped up with sparkling water, we think it makes the perfect refreshment for a hot day.
- 350 g very ripe, green gooseberries
- 2 ½ tbsp honey, ideally raw and unpasteurised
- 450 ml soda water or sparkling mineral water
- Ice to serve (optional)
Put the gooseberries in a blender with a splash of the water to help loosen them up a bit and pulse into a thick purée.
Using a large spoon, push the purée through a sieve suspended over a large jug to extract the bright-green juice. Once you've got out as much juice as you can, discard the pips and tough skins that have been left behind. You should end up with around 300ml juice (if you end up with much less than that, then just put a smaller amount of the soda water in at the end so that the flavour doesn't get diluted too much).
Add the honey to the juice and stir in until it has dissolved. You can add a little more or reduce the amount to taste if you like; the riper your gooseberries are, the less you'll need. Top with the soda water and gently stir to combine.
Pour the soda into a sterilised bottle, seal and pop in the fridge to chill.
Serve cold, over ice.
It will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, but will need a gentle shake before serving if you find it has settled in the bottle.