This is a classic flavour combination & no wonder, it’s seriously delicious. I keep dipping my finger in the jar every time I go in the fridge – I never eat jam like that normally. I wanted to share the recipe because I tried a couple of methods & this one gave the best result. Most recipes either add cordial or steep the flowers in the jam & them remove them. I found that leaving them in gives a much stronger flavour.
I am not the world’s best jam maker as I don’t really like proper jam. I prefer to make them with less sugar & I don’t care about the set. I like French style conserves more than jam so that is what I usually make. Having said that this recipe has a lot of sugar as gooseberries are very sour & it is set because they have a lot of pectin so it accidentally became a proper jam.
I was put off making my own jams for a long time by all that talk of setting, sterilising,& special equipment. You can actually ignore most of that stuff & make delicious fruit spreads (a pedant would not call them jams) pretty easily, they just have to be eaten quicker than proper jam. Sterilising is important but if you have an oven it is not difficult – I have added a passage at the end about how to do it. All you need is a heavy bottomed pan & a wooden spoon. You do not even need a sugar thermometer really, just boil the crap out of it for 5 minutes after you put the sugar in so it gets very very hot & then lower the heat until it is the desired texture. Easy! Just remember to stir regularly when it starts to thicken so it doesnt; catch on the bottom of the pan.
Testing the set is also easy, you just put a plate in the freezer & when you think the jam is ready spoon a small amount onto the plate. It will cool quickly & you can push it with your finger to see how stiff it is. I also taste it at this point – this is how I have learned what works & what doesn’t. The first jams I made were too loose & they are ok but not tasty enough. In fact I have made jams like this & then a couple of days later put them back in the pan & boiled them some more. Jam making is more forgiving than I was ever lead to believe so I urge you to give it a go. If it turns out a bit rubbish you can always use it in baking something like a cake or crumble.
Gooseberry & Elderflower Jam Recipe
You will need 3-4 sterilised jars it makes about 800g
5 elderflower heads (optional) – best picked in sunlight as they are more fragrant
100ml elderflower cordial
2. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the gooseberries are totally soft. Turn the oven on to about 150 degrees to heat up ready for the sugar.
3. After 15 minutes place the sugar in a roasting tray & into the oven for 5 minutes. Warm sugar is less likely to crystallise when you add it to the hot fruit. Place a plate into the freezer ready for the set test.
4. Add the sugar & stir well. Turn up the heat & bring the jam to a rapid boil. It will need between 10-20 minutes more depending on how much water comes out of the fruit.
5. Stir regularly to stop the jam sticking to the bottom of the pan & skim any white scum from the surface.
I am not too fussy when making jams about the setting. I prefer loose style preserves like a French conserve. The main thing is to boil the fruit rapidly for at least 5 minutes to get rid of impurities. If you have a sugar thermometer use it to get the temperature up to the jam setting – about 105 degrees. Turn the heat down a little & boil more slowly until it is the consistency that you prefer.
6. Once the jam is thickened & has changed colour to a dark red (or darker green, depends on the type of gooseberry) add half the elderflower cordial. Stir it & bring back to the boil.
7. Take the cold plate from the freezer & spoon a small dollop of jam onto the plate. Give it a minute & then see if it is set enough. Taste it as well. The flavour should be strong & sweet/sour. If it is too runny or not tasty enough carry on boiling it & keep trying every few minutes until it is right for you.
8. Once the jam is the correct consistency & flavour snip in the Elderflowers (make sure to just get the flowers as the stems are gross) & add the rest of the cordial. Give it a good stir & put it in the sterilised jars immediately. If you have wax disks put one on the surface before the jar lid goes on.
To sterilise your jars just give them a good clean in hot water. Lay them out on a baking tray with their lids & put into a hot oven (over 100 degrees) for 10 minutes. If they are ready before the jam just turn the oven off & leave them in there until you are ready for them.
We have a bunch of Elderflower recipes here on the blog – we really love it. There’s a delicious trifle, a cordial recipe with some lovely cocktail ideas, an aromatic Lime & Elderflower Curd & a refreshing summer sorbet. Cooking with elderflowers is a wonderful thing but be careful to pick them properly & do not apply much heat to them as the fragrance is elusive & easily destroyed.