The gooseberry is little known here in the States, but it's a specialty throughout Europe. My first memory of gooseberries was picking them in the garden of a dear family friend in Connecticut. I remember the berries had a very unique sweet-tart flavor, much like their cousin the currant. It was many, many years later that I would taste them again—at the farmers' market in New York. I was so excited to rediscover them.
Every summer I buy a pint to enjoy just for eating. I hardly ever make recipes out of berries—they're just so good fresh. Gooseberries, though, can be turned into everything from jam to pickles. In Hungarian cooking, gooseberries are often used in savory recipes. (You can make a very good sauce to go over pork.) In England they make gooseberry pies and cobblers. This season I decided to make a gooseberry pie with beautiful purple gooseberries.
The berries are round and plump, containing small seeds. Besides purple, they also come in red and pale green. They grow on a low bush in singles and in pairs. The bloom end, which should be trimmed for this recipe, stays attached to the berry. For the pie, prepare the filling much like a jam, so that baking time is cut in half. Though just a warning: this isn't the kind of pie that makes a perfectly formed slice. 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.
1-1/2 pounds gooseberries, ends trimmed
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup potato or tapioca starch
Pie Crust, recipe follows
Combine the gooseberries and sugar in a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Cook until sugar has dissolved and gooseberries have released most of their liquid, about 5 minutes. Stir in starch and continue to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Roll out one disc of pie dough to about 11 inches to fit a 9-inch pie plate. Fit into the pie plate. Roll out the second disc and use a decorative pastry cutter to score 3/4-inch strips. Refrigerate pie plate and dough strips until ready to use.
Pour gooseberry mixture into dough-lined pie plate, spreading evenly. Onto the pie, lay half the strips in one direction a 1/2-inch apart. Lay the remaining strips in the opposite direction. Tuck and press the edges together securely. Cut off any overhanging strips. Crimp the edge of the pie using your thumbs and forefingers. Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
Bake pie for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 degrees F. and continue to bake for 30 to 40 minutes. The crust should be golden brown and the filling bubbling. If the crust starts to brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Cool the pie completely before slicing and serving. Yield: 8 slices.
Note: For the perfect pie crust, the dough should clump when squeezed together. In humid weather 1/4 cup ice water should do, but in normal conditions, a 1/2 cup is needed. Still if it is too dry, add water, or if too moist, add flour.
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to aerate instead of sifting.
Add butter and pulse for ten seconds or until mixture resembles course meal.
With the food processor running, stream in water. Process until the dough comes together.
Divide the dough into two parts and wrap in plastic wrap, forming discs. Chill for at least one hour before rolling.