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Until recently, I had no idea what a ground cherry was. Or that they were also called “Cape Gooseberries.” Or that there is a difference between this kind of gooseberry and a “true” gooseberry (thank you, Wikipedia). Maybe you’re more advanced than I am, but if not, here’s what a ground cherry/ Cape Gooseberry looks like:

1gooseberryWhen we were checking out our new house, I assumed that the husked things growing on a crawling plant were tomatillos. When I finally got around to moving my tomatoes into the garden, I realized that these were something else. I opened one up, it was orange, and popped it in my mouth. Mostly just a sweet flavor, no tartness, and a great bit of crunchiness from the small seeds. Very interesting. Then the question was, what the heck do I do with it? Last weekend I was working on over 25-pounds of pears that I had from our new backyard tree and while I had the canning supplies I figured I’d get to work on the gooseberries as well.

2gooseberryThere was a fair amount of fruit that was past its prime, and I decided to keep some of the greener ones in there to increase the amount but in the end I ended up with about three cups of fruit. My recipe, see below, called for just under four cups of fruit, and since I was using added pectin from a packet, it was important to have the right measurement. I still had some pears sitting around, so I peeled and chopped enough to make up for the gooseberries I didn’t have.

3gooseberryThe resulting jam is a beautiful golden color and very sweet because the fruit is so sweet on its own. I’ve adjusted the recipe below to include lemon juice, not for the pectin and acidity it adds to the recipe but because I think some acid would balance this jam better.

4gooseberryI would like to also note that there are a ton of uses for jam besides spreading on toast or pairing with peanut butter. When you’re suddenly up to your eyeballs in jam (more to come on the jams I made, soon) you start thinking out of the box about what to do with it. A very sweet jam like this would be great for thumbprint cookies. Any jam would be good in homemade pop tarts. Or how about crescent jam and cheese cookies? A jam tart is quite a good use of most jams. Of course I like to use jams and jellies in between cake layers, or on a cake. A dollop of fruit jam works beautifully on a cheese plate. And lately, with one of the batches that is a little more syrup than jam, I’ve been using over ice cream and stirred into plain yogurt. If all else fails, stir it into a glass of champagne or mix with your favorite spirit for a classy cocktail.

5gooseberryCape Gooseberry (Ground Cherry) and Pear Jam (adapted from “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving”
Makes about seven 8-ounce jars
3 cups crushed cape gooseberries
3/4 cups peeled, chopped pears
juice of 1 lemon (at least 3 tablespoons)
6 cups sugar
1 pouch of liquid pectin (3 oz.– I used Certo)

  1. Prepare canning pot, jars and lids. (I usually use an oven method for preparing my jars which you can find here. This time I used the hot water method since I already had hot and clean boiling water)
  2. In a large, deep stainless steel or cast iron pan, combine pears, gooseberries, lemon juice and sugar over high heat. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir in pectin and then boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam if needed.
  3. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if needed, by adding hot jam. Wipe rim, center lids on jars and screw band down until fingertip-tight.
  4. Place jars in canner making sure they are completely covered with water. Bring water to boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars and cool on a kitchen towel before storing.