I love making small batches of preserves when I have ripe fruit in the garden. Jam making this way is easy, stress free, and an incredibly satisfying hour of creativity. My gooseberry bushes were re-sited this year and I thought the trauma would kill the yield. In fact they actually they blossomed in their new home and a bumper crop is ready to pick. Right next to the gooseberries the rhubarb was also ready to cut so I decided to combine three early summer flavours in my first jam of the new season. Here it is; it’s heady with the aroma of elderflowers, tart from the gooseberries and with a pink glow from the rhubarb. I saved a handful of gooseberries and rhubarb to chuck into the last five minutes of cooking to add a little chunkiness but if you prefer a smoother finish put all the fruit in at the same time.
I give amounts here and use the classic ratio of the same weight in sugar as the fruit. That means there is no pressure on how much you make and it always works. I use jam sugar that has pectin added but actually gooseberries have their own but as I was adding other fruit it helps. If you want a lower sugar jam, use 50g sugar to every 100g fruit. It will be a little runnier and you must keep it in the fridge and use it up in three weeks.
Download a printable pdf of the recipe Gooseberry, Rhubarb and Elderflower jam .
Before you start cooking just heat the oven to 100°C. Take an oven proof dish and put around 2 cm of water in the bottom. Place your jam jars in the tray and leave in the oven to sterilise while you make the jam. Lids can be placed in a mixing bowl and covered with boiling water from the kettle.
250g gooseberries, topped and tailed (you can do this with scissors)
150g rhubarb, cut into 1 cm chunks
200ml clear apple juice or water
3-4 heads of elderflowers (or add a few spoons of elderflower cordial)
400g jam sugar
4 tablespoons elderflower cordial
Place the fruit and juice in a medium size heavy based saucepan. Lay the elderflowers on top and allow to infuse, while you bring the mixture to the boil. As soon as it boils turn off the heat and leave for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the elderflowers and add the sugar to the pan. Bring to the boil for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and looks syrupy then stir in the elderflower cordial. If you have a jam thermometer handy you are looking for 105°C. I never use one and don’t regret it! Allow the jam to cool for 10 minutes before pouring the jam into the jars.Leave the jam to cool covered with some kitchen paper. Cover the jam with waxed paper circles and cover with sterilised dry lids.
This recipe was first published in Essence of Surrey Magazine.