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Gooseberries in Imitation of Hops

Some Georgian food writers, like the Scarborough-based confectioner Joseph Bell, preferred to make their gooseberry hops from the Red Campaign or Champagne Gooseberry, known to earlier authors (see below), as the Great Red Gooseberry.

Whether you used red or green gooseberries, the fruits had to be split into four from the stalk end and all the seeds removed. Five or six of these were threaded on a strong thread with a needle.

The gooseberries were then very carefully blanched in a preserving pan. They were covered above and below with vine leaves (in one recipe with cabbage leaves) to help preserve the green colour and to prevent them breaking up. They were then preserved in syrup. The syrup was boiled a little every day to increase its density. The finished 'hops' were stored in glasses or gallipots covered with brandy papers and sealed with rendered suet or leather covers.

Gooseberries, or feaberries, have been an English favourite for centuries. In 1629, John Parkinson described five main varieties - the green, the blue and three red kinds. The woodcut above, from his Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris (London:1629) shows the ordinary gooseberry. The plate below, the great red gooseberry and the prickly gooseberry, probably synonomous with the common feaberry of the English hedgerows.

Parkinson tells us about their culinary uses,

'The berries of the ordinary Gooseberries, while they are small, greene, and hard, are much used to bee boyled or scalded to make sawce, both for fish and flesh of diuers forts, for the sicke sometimes as well as the sound, as also before they bee neere ripe, to bake into tarts, or otherwise, after manie fashions, as the cunning of the Cooke, or the pleasure of his commanders will appoint. They are a fit dish for women with childe to stay their longings, and to procure an appetite unto meate'.

Sauce for green Geese.

The best sauce for green Geese is the juyce of sorrell and sugar mixt together with a few scalded Feberries, and served upon sippets: or else the belly of the green Goose fild with Feberries and so rosted: and then the same mixt with Verjuice, Butter, Sugar and Cinamon, and so served upon sippets.

From Gervase Markham, The English Housewife (London: 1615)

Preserved in syrup, these delightful counterfeit hop flowers are made from gooseberries, one of the most traditional English soft fruits of summer. Dating from the early Georgian period, the first printed recipe is found in Elizabeth Smith's The Compleat Housewife (London: 1727). Smith (rather dangerously) impaled her split gooseberries on thorns. Later writers like Mary Smith, Frederick Nutt and William Henderson wisely threaded them on cord with a needle, avoiding the possibility of dinner guests getting a thorn caught in their throats.
Gooseberries in Imitation of Hops

TAKE the largest green walnut gooseberries you can get and cut them at the stalk end into four quarters. Leave them whole at the blossom end, take out all the seeds, and put five or six one in another. Take a needleful of strong thread with a large knot at the end; run the needle through the bunch of gooseberries, tie a knot to fasten them together, and they will resemble hops. Put cold spring water into your pan, with a large handful of vine leaves at the bottom; then three or four layers of gooseberries, with plenty of vine leaves between every layer, and over the top of your pan. Cover it no that no steam can get out, and set them on a slow fire. Take them off as soon as they are scalding hot, and let them stand till they are cold. Then set them on again till they are of a good green, then take them off, and let them stand till they are quite cold. Put them into a sieve to drain, and make a thin syrup thus: To every pint of water put in a pound of common loaf-sugar, and boil it and skim it well. When it is about half cold, put in your gooseberries, let them stand till the next day, give them one boil a-day for three days. Then make a syrup thus: To every pint of water put in a pound of fine sugar, a slice of ginger, and a lemon-peel cut lengthways very fine. Boil and skim it well, give your gooseberries a boil in it, and when they are cold, put them into glasses or pots, lay brandy-paper over them, and tie them up close.

From W.A. Henderson The Housekeeper's Instructor (London 1792)

Gooseberries in imitation of hops appeared on the table during the Georgian dessert course. They were apparently used to make a striking ornament for the table - in her The Complete Confectioner (London:ca.1760), Hannah Glasse tells us "if you have a mind to make a little tree of them according to art, they will be very pretty in a dessert". As well as being preserved in syrup and served in sweetmeat glasses, they were sometimes candied as here (top left hand corner). The other Georgian dessert foods in this photograph are Cupid's Hedgehogs, Spice Biscuits (an English form of cantucini) and Toad-in-a-Hole Biscuits. These sweet tit-bits were all consumed with dessert wines and ratafia liqueurs.

Gooseberries in Imitation of Hops was a novelty sweetmeat of the Georgian period. Earlier housewives and comfit makers had preserved gooseberries in much plainer fashion. These were sometimes dried and candied as in the photograph above, where 'dried' gooseberries are served with other banquetting stuffe - candied pears and flowers candied in gilded Spanish wedges. Gooseberry creams and fools were also popular, as was gooseberry wine. Pastes, giams, jellies, clear cakes and even little wafers, were made from this pectin-rich fruit. They were sometimes also preserved in pippin jelly, or pickled in verjuice. A favourite country house dish was a gooseberry tansey, made by frying the fruit in butter and pouring a mixture of egg yolks and cream sweetened with sugar into the frying pan. The finished tansey was then strewn with rosewater and sugar.

It is often said that gooseberries got their name because they were used as a sauce for goose. However, geese come into season after Michaelmas, well after the gooseberry season is over. Early recipes reveal that barberries and apples were the most frequent accompaniments to roast Michaelmas or stubble goose. Gooseberries were a favourite sauce for fish, especially crab and mackerel. Nevertheless, in the early summer, young fattened goslings known as green geese were a popular food and a gooseberry sauce was served with them. Gervase Markham (1615) gives a recipe for this sauce, which he tells us to make with feberries. There are a few later recipes for a sauce for green geese made with gooseberries, but they are scarce.

In his Dictionary, Samual Johnston thought that the derivation of gooseberry from goose was erroneous because the two foods were never eaten together. He was obviously mistaken, but it is likely that the pairing of green geese and gooseberries was not that common. Gooseberry is more likely to be a corruption of the French word groseille, the generic name for redcurrents and gooseberries. Indeed grosberry is another English name for the fruit.

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