Stilts, Gooseberries, And A Spud For All Seasons

Ah, summer in Ireland. Where you’re just as likely to be bathed in rain as in sunshine and where the organisers of outdoor events play a game of Russian roulette with the weather and hope that they are hit, if not with sunshine, then at least not with a fatal shot of precipitation.

As I made ready to head to the Midsummer Fair in Temple Bar on Sunday last, I peered out at grey skies and a persistent drizzle. It didn’t look good for folks wanting to picnic and be entertained while lounging on the faux-grass in Meeting House Square.

Still, I donned my rain gear and arrived to find a few other hardy souls enjoying the trad music on offer, some even be-seated on the I-can-believe-it’s-not-grass patch. More importantly, I was able to satisfy my morning’s need for caffeine at the coffee angel stand, my portable coffee of choice. The day was looking up.

Sure enough, by mid-afternoon, the weather had taken a decided turn for the better and there was little space left on the artificial green, with families being entertained by Punch and Judy, face-painting, magic tricks and periodic encounters with a man on stilts (equipped with stilt welly boots, de riguer for stilting in the Irish climate), and another fellow on a unicycle. Good family fun and, better again, all for free.

Meet the entertainers at the Temple Bar Midsummer Fair

Meet the entertainers

The market stalls surrounding the square combined food, crafts and books, representing a mix of the regular weekly Temple Bar markets. I, of course, was really there for the food and, while the number of food stalls was relatively small, I still managed to while away a goodly amount of time doing a tour of what was on offer.

Food stalls at the Temple Bar Midsummer Fair

Hungry?

I was delighted to see gooseberries for sale from Malone’s Fruit Farms and much discussion of the berry ensued with the delightful Bernie. I was on a promise to make some gooseberry curd, having mentioned the possibility to Gastroanthropologist and, given that my Ma’s gooseberries are not quite ready yet, I secured some from Malone’s instead. I also nabbed some of the excellent sprouted chickpea hummus from Natasha’s Living Foods and some fabulous apple ice cream from Llewellyn’s.

There were, in addition, farmhouse cheeses on the double from Knockdrinna and from Corleggy, there were oysters, there were goods that were roasted and goods that were baked. And then there was Roy and his mobile potato-baking oven.

I checked it out and read that it has room for 230 potatoes. Colour me impressed. My baked potato came complete with the story of the Vivaldi potato, a UK variety favoured for baking and so-called because, yes, it is a spud for all 4 seasons. Meanwhile Roy is on the hunt for a regular vending spot for his baked spuds, so I wish him luck with that.

Finally, it was time to take my leave. I could have lingered, enjoying the temporarily grassed Temple Bar, but my gooseberries were, by then, demanding my attention and some gooseberry curd ensued.

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Midsummer Gooseberry Curd

This is taken from Marguerite Patten’s excellent Jams, Preserves and Chutneys handbook.

Truth be told, this was actually my first time to make curd of any description and, if success is measured as the rate at which I’ve been spooning the results into my awaiting gob, then this was of the rip-roaring variety. I would say, however, that my inaugural batch of curd didn’t thicken up as much as I thought a curd ought to. The recipe calls for either whole eggs or, if you prefer, you can use egg yolks only (in which case you double the amount of egg-age). I went the whole eggs route on this attempt but am thinking that it would perhaps thicken better with yolks only. However, I’m going to turn this one over to Jenni and request further analysis on the consistency front.

gooseberry curd

You’ll need:
  • 900g sour green gooseberries
  • 300ml water
  • sugar (for amount, see Steps)
  • unsalted butter (for amount, see Steps)
  • eggs (for amount, see Steps)
You’ll also need:
  • A nylon sieve to strain the gooseberry purée.
  • A double boiler or, alternatively, a large basin that can sit over a saucepan of water.
  • Jars and wax discs for sealing up to 1.5kg of curd and a tongs for handling sterilised jars.
The Steps:
  • You’ll need to prepare the jars that you’re going to use for the curd. Turn your oven on to 140C. Wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and sterilise, either by boiling in water for 10 minutes and then drying in the oven or just by keeping the jars in the oven for at least 30 minutes before using.
  • Wash the gooseberries but don’t bother removing the tops and tails.
  • Add the gooseberries and water to a large saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the fruit has softened, the berries have burst and the mixture is pulpy (about 15-20 minutes).
  • Strain through a nylon sieve, pushing as much of the mixture through as possible, and measure the resulting volume of gooseberry purée – I managed to get about 1 litre from this amount.
  • The exact quantity of sugar, butter and eggs will depend on the volume of gooseberry purée. For 1 litre of gooseberry purée, I used 750g sugar, 190g unsalted butter and 5 large eggs (or you can use 10 egg yolks instead).
  • Place the purée in the top of a double boiler or in a basin placed over a saucepan on a medium-low heat and containing hot, but not boiling, water. Add the sugar and butter and stir until melted.
  • Whisk the eggs or egg yolks, then whisk in a little of the hot gooseberry mixture to heat the eggs. Then add this mixture slowly back into the gooseberry purée.
  • Cook slowly, allowing the mixture to thicken until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. I probably cooked mine for about 30-40 minutes. It didn’t thicken as much as I expected it to, but I didn’t want to cook it into oblivion either, so I stopped at that point.
  • Pour into hot, sterilised jars, to within 3mm of the tops. Seal with a wax disc and cover with cellophane covers and/or sterilised lids.
  • Once it’s cooled, try some curd on toast or swirled into some yoghurt.
The Variations:
  • Once I have a critical mass of berries from the redcurrant bush in my garden, I think I’m going to try using making curd with them, as they, too, are quite tart and would be yet another alternative to the traditional lemon curd.
The Results:
  • Around 1.5 kg of curd
Comments
  • Gooseberries. I’ve never had gooseberries before. I never even seen one until now. nice. Sounds like you had an enjoyable time at the fair. I’m usually there for the food too. Forget everything else. haha…

  • This sounds super delicious!

    I use all yolks in my lemon curd. I’m not sure about the thickening properties of yolks vs. whole eggs in curds (although that seems like something I ought to have learned in school), but the texture is definitely better in general with all yolks. (Hooray for fat!) It does take an awful long time to thicken, though, no matter what.

    Let us know how the redcurrant curd comes out. Currants are difficult to come by fresh here, and expensive when you do have the chance to buy them, so we just put a bush in our backyard. I doubt I’ll have enough from my own plant this year, but I can always dream for the future.

  • I don’t believe I’ve ever had a gooseberry – curded or otherwise. I do love the sound of the curd though … I’ll take mine wrapped in a tender crepe, please! :)

    I’m also loving the sound of that mobile baked potato oven. Those look like some mighty tasty spuds!

  • Oh yum! I love curd, and this one sounds divine. The pictures are great, and its really got me thinking about my upcoming trip. Now that I think I have resolved most of my computer issues, I can really start planning. The Temple Street Markets were on my list of must visits – but I’ll have to be comparing my notes with my Mom to see what Rick Steve’s says. =)

  • i have never had a gooseberry. and i’m just gonna throw out there that i really, really want to come to ireland now!!

  • Gastroanthropology’s post on gooseberry fool was the first I’d ever heard or seen of this fruit. Now, with your curd, I have gooseberries on the brain! I wonder if the Temple Bar Market is the same one that hubs and I stumbled upon quite by accident and, unfortunately, much too early on our first Saturday morning in Dublin? No one was set up yet but judging from the stalls that were being assembled, we knew we were going to miss something wonderful. One of the myriad reasons why we are determined to return to glorious Eire! 8-)

  • Was there a little paved area on the artificial green? Like a patio de faux grass?

  • Would you like to sponsor 2 young kids who are dying for an overseas excursion? We will help you make gooseberry curd too. Is that an even trade?

  • After translating gooseberries into Russian I realized that I’ve had those before but a long time ago. I looked at my supermarket webpage and apparently they have a gooseberry preserves, so I am getting it on my next shopping. I would love to remember how it tastes! The curd sounds excellent!

  • jenn: yep – I gather that gooseberries are not really something that you’re likely to come across in the States; flavourwise think along the lines of a sour kiwi fruit (which is also known as a Chinese gooseberry – though the fruits aren’t actually related)

    Other Tiger: I think I’ll definitely be going the all-yolk route next time anyway and hopefully I’ll have enough redcurrants to experiment with very soon now

    Diva: ooh, yes, curd on a nice tender crepe sounds like just the thing, think I’ll have one myself :)

    OysterCulture: if you’re in Dublin on a Saturday when you visit, then you should definitely swing by the Temple Bar market

    Heather: you’re not alone on either front, I gather!

    Tangled Noodle: it might well have been Temple Bar market that you stumbled across and, yes, that’s only one of many reasons I can think of for you to come back and visit

    Berna: aha! as I was writing faux-gras, I kept thinking foie-gras – delighted that you managed to punnet

    Duo Dishes: it’s an even trade if you let me do an exchange and I get to visit SoCal :)

    Natasha: I love gooseberry jam so hopefully your supermarket has a nice example that you can sample

  • I’ve never heard or seen a gooseberry before either! I would love to try them – the jam sounds divine!

  • Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! The pressure!

    In looking at my basic recipe, I use at least as much sugar, by weight, as juice. Also, I use a ton more eggs. For 4 cups (32 oz) of juice, I use 8 cups (53–ish ounces) of sugar, 12 eggs and 16 yolks. That thickens things up pretty nicely. I make mine over direct heat, stirring madly, because I don’t like to Wait for a double boiler to get hot enough. Here’s a link to my curd post from a few months ago. http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/2008/12/20/show-lemon-curd-a-little-love/

    Regardless of the not-as-thick-as-you-would-like aspect, it sounds very, very good!

  • This looks awesome. After reading the post I realized that gooseberries have the perfect flavor for making into curd. I think you dead on about the yolks – that will thicken it right up.
    My gooseberry supplier seemed to be out – red guys only – so I’m hoping to come across some more soon so I can try this out. Now I just have to think about how to eat the curd.
    I’ve swirled lime curd into vanilla ice cream…might be a good idea for gooseberry curd…
    Thanks for posting this! Your my go to guy for everything gooseberry!

  • MMMM..I am so glad that you have made a gooseberry curd because
    I have some good gooseberries & i didn’t know what to do with them! Thanks for this lovely apart curd recipe: it looks divine!!
    I will make some today! Thanks so much!

  • Reeni: maybe you’ll have to come to Ireland to sample some!

    Jenni: thanks for having a looksee, chef – yep that’s a lot more eggs alright; I was interested in the heat bit too – when I was cooking it, I was wondering if a bit more heat (and constant whisking) would have been the way to go; anyway, next time out, I’ll try with more yolks and maybe some more heat and whisking and see how I go;

    gastroanthropologist: swirled into vanilla ice cream would be lovely – hope you find more green gooseberries so you can try that out!

    Sophie: oh enjoy – I do hope you like it!

  • An instant read thermometer is a good friend to have when making curd, especially if you’ve not made it before. You want the temp to get up to about 160-162F (about 71C). If you don’t have a thermometer, the best way to tell is, over direct heat (takes less time), whisk like crazy the whole time. It will get all foamy and frothy. As it thickens the foam will start to dissipate–it will look like it’s going down a drain (the whole whisking thing, you know). When it’s at the right temp, all the foam will magically be gone. Then you’ll know it’s thick enough. Strain immediately and whisk in the butter. :)

  • Wow…I haven’t had gooseberries for so long!…I used to eat them in my grandparents’ garden, they were red ones in my memories :-D The jam sounds delicious.

  • My Dad has always had a couple gooseberry bushes in his garden, which my mom usually turns into jam or pie. I’m not familiar with curd, but it sounds wonderful. I was interested to see the mention of the red ones in the comments. In Brazil they have ice cream and and even beer flavored with what translates to gooseberry, but it is red and I had never experienced those until moving here.

  • Jenni: fantastic, for my next attempt at curd I will be equipped with science – and I do believe there was an instant read thermometer in that IFBC goodie bag, so I shall be equipped with that too :)

    French Cooking: welcome! There certainly are some varieties that turn red, though my childhood memories are filled with gooseberries that were decidedly green…

    Lori: wow – gooseberry flavoured beer, that is certainly a new one on me; I’ve certainly come across red gooseberries but it seems to me that the green ones are more common here, or maybe that’s just because that’s what my parents always grew (and, likewise, turned into jams and pies, among other things)

  • I never buy gooseberries because I have no idea what to do with them but this sounds wonderful!

  • Ah, gooseberries are wonderful Maggie – I love them. Mostly I would just eat them simply stewed (though they do need quite a bit of sugar added) and they also make for lovely jam. The curd was a new one for me, but I would definitely make it again.

  • […] was while I was in the process of scoffing my gooseberry curd, that it occurred to me that tangy redcurrants might play well in curd […]

  • […] was while I was in the process of scoffing my gooseberry curd, that it occurred to me that tangy redcurrants might play well in curd […]

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