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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Around 1.5 kg of curd