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I had the good luck to pop into a charity shop at the end of a day when these two bags cost £1 each, together weighing 3.25kg,

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If you are able to grow gooseberries, you’ll know they are very prolific if protected from berry-loving birds.

 A kind soul had harvested these from her garden and donated them locally. I love alternative ways for food to be shared and sold and bought, and of course saw this as a great opportunity to experiment with fermenting gooseberries.

I’ve been wondering for several years if the fruit called gooseberries in Europe– in the currant family– could be used also as tomatillos, which are similar to Cape Gooseberries.

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Gooseberries as we call them here in the UK

And of course there are also the Indian fruits called Gooseberries, which are something else altogether, though I remember conversing, at a Pick- Your-Own in Oxford , with an Indian woman who was picking English Gooseberries for use in a raw chutney.  That summer I made a sugary spicy Gooseberry Chutney pink as Gooseberry Jam gets which we ate with cheese and crackers.  All the gooseberries began to seem interchangeable, or at least fun to see if this were so.

So for the gooseberries I looked at various Tomatillo Salsa recipes, this Nourished Kitchen Salsa Verde one which is fermented, and others not.  Very easy.

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To begin the fermentation, I took a pound of gooseberries and mixed them with teaspoon of sea salt and a tablespoon of sugar (because earlier attempts were just strangely sour), juice squeezed from a lime, and a small amount of “brine” from fermented jalapeños.

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Of course any “starter” (or no starter at all) would also be possible if you didn’t want a spicy flavour– bread kvass, or sauerkraut brine, or whey, or pickle “juice.”  I knew this ferment would end up as a salsa so felt confident using the jalapeño brine.

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The gooseberries soon (two days) became a languorous mess of skin and seeds and fluid, and I stirred whenever I could to prevent yeasts growing on the top.

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Three days later for this Gooseberry Salsa I simply mixed the

  • Fermenting Gooseberries (a pound), as above, with a
  • quarter cup of Fermented Jalapeños
  • two cloves of garlic
  • an onion
  • a big handful of parsley (fresh coriander leaf would have been better) and
  • a little more lime to taste.
  • And whizzed away.

Gooseberry Salsa is surprising and refreshing with tortilla chips and all things festive-nacho-like, , and I reckon very similar to the Tomatillo Salsas I’ve never actually tried. Would also be fine and dandy mixed with tinned or fresh tomatoes as in this easy hodgepodge salsa. Basically, having fermented Whatevers are just great to add to dips and purees and mixtures for the Uplift and Edification of everyone’s microbiota.

Gooseberry Jalapeno Sour Cream Dip

The first batch of Gooseberry Salsa I made lacked the sugar and lime, but had been something I’d planned to bring to my friend’s Mexican-food-themed birthday party.  In the free association of “party!” with “Dip!” I decided to mix several tablespoons of sour cream with the salsa.  (And we know sour cream and creme fraiche are pro-biotic and that we can culture them at home, by adding a little Milk Kefir or Buttermilk to cream, and waiting a few days. )

At first I thought my mess was weird, and this photo is a rather strained effort at food photography, but I kept tasting, pinky by pinky, and decided that actually, this was a way forward for party dips.

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The dip only got better as it sat–and occasionally got wetter and asked to be drained a little.  The thicker dip was great with these chips and also struck me as useful as creamy spicy yumminess inside a burrito or sandwich or wherever.  And of course I could imagine this bowl in the centre of a convocation of crudités, sticks of celery, carrots, and red pepper sticks all in a pretty mass.

(In fact this Gooseberry-Jalapeno Dip made me wonder why there aren’t more dips with Lacto-Fermented ingredients for we partiers to place on that festive buffet.  Next to make: Green Goddess Dip with fermented herbs and maybe some fresh ones and fresh greens and a naughty kiss of garlic, a dollop of sour cream and a grind of black pepper.)

Gooseberry Kvass

So I’ve been really into making Fruit Kvass because it’s just so easy, and the Rhubarb Kvass was such pure refreshment.

Do I need to give specifics? I think it’s like this:

Take a jar, fill it one third with chopped gooseberries, and sweeten just a little with honey or sugar or whatever you fancy.

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the secret life of fermenting gooseberries, awaiting a destiny of Kvass

Let the fruit steep, until they give up their flavour to the water. Try a bite– you’ll see it’s more a body without a soul after a few days.  Strain the fruit out, and funnel into a bottle, which you can cap for a day or two until Fizz Happens.  More sugar, more fizz.

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Gooseberry Kvass

Fresh mint would be wonderful, and maybe a little apple.  Play with fruit kvass flavours.  Mix and Match.  Maybe even vegetables and fruit, like cucumbers and apples, for an echo of Pimms Cup.

And yes, next on my list in Nasturtium Kvass.

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