#7 : Gooseberry Pie
(Do not cut back the sugar.)
The freezer compartment in our refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen is very small and was (still is) always full to bursting. Some 15 years ago I got tired of this, and, on a whim, ordered a stand-alone freezer for the basement. I ordered it, and it was delivered, while Jeff was away - in Boston for work? In PA visiting his mom? - and he was most aggrieved to come home and find the new freezer there taking up a huge corner of the basement, and even worse, it was already half full. Over the years that freezer has come in handy for homemade soups and stocks, and frozen chicken and ground turkey and pesto (you can make it and freeze it in ice cube trays! It's amazing what you can freeze) not to mention bags (and bags upon bags) of fruit from local farm stands or from my sour cherry trees and red currant bushes out in our yard. Jeff finally started appreciating the freezer as we always had lots of frozen "stuff" down there, allowing us quick soups for lunch and lots of fruit for pies and ice cream. During Hurricane Sandy the basement filled up with 3 1/2 feet of water, and the freezer fell over but somehow managed to stay closed, and I saved everything in it by rushing all the frozen food to the freezer at the post office. Good thing as we were without power for three days.
A political statement
Jeff had the idea that I should start using "all that fruit in that freezer" (not the stuff from Sandy which has since been used up; that was over 10 years ago, after all) in a few of these pies, and that sounded like a good idea. Right on top (after a recent cleanup) was a bag of gooseberries bought quite a while back from a local farm stand. Good thing I bought them when I did and froze them, as that farm stand since then has demonstrated political views different from mine (fill in the blanks here) so I no longer patronize them. Seemed like an ideal time to use up the gooseberries for something a little different.
Perhaps not too surprisingly, recipes for gooseberry pie are fairly hard to come across but I finally found one online (click here if you are feeling brave). I have made a gooseberry pie in the past. You may have noticed in most of my recipes I mention cutting back the sugar...last time I made this pie Jeff took a taste, got a funny look on his face, and said, "Maybe you cut the sugar too much" - turns out gooseberries are extremely tart. So if you should happen to make this pie (I know you're all rushing out to make it, right?) maybe err on the side of slightly too much sugar. This recipe calls for a full two cups of sugar but you may notice in the comments many people say that's far too much. I ended up using about 1 1/3 cups of sugar which seemed about right.
In addition, for a little added sweetness to the pie and also as a variation on the pies I've been posting here, I made a crumb topping for the top crust. In my early days of pie baking I used this crumb topping all the time as it was much easier than rolling out a top crust or, Heaven forbid, making a lattice top crust (keep watching this blog - a lattice top is not all that difficult and is actually fun to do). Eventually I "graduated" to making a top crust but on occasion a crumb topping can be fun. See the recipe here - couldn't be easier.
Fruit pies tend to have a somewhat soupy filling due to all the water in the fruit - this is true for most berries and especially for peaches. In addition to straining the fruit and then adding three tablespoons of ground tapioca to the filling, I also peeled a Granny Smith apple, then grated it (being sure not to get any seeds in the grated apple) and squeezed out all the excess water with a paper towel. The apple has natural pectin which helps thicken the filling naturally without the need to add liquid or powdered pectin which always has an odd flavor to me. The apple has no taste but helps thicken the filling and prevents ending up with a "pie soup".
The assembly was pretty easy. I did follow the recipe which called for mashing some of the gooseberries (I mashed a full cup) and cooking them on the stovetop with sugar and a pinch of salt. After combining the cooked and thawed raw gooseberries and pouring them in the chilled bottom crust, I sprinkled the crumb topping evenly over the pie and baked it for an hour. (I baked it at 400 for the first half hour, then rotated it and finished it at 350 for the second half hour. Check the pie on occasion while baking as the crumb topping goes from golden brown to burnt in a very short time.)
Jeff was practicing piano and organ for a local church service and came home to a wonderful aroma..."Wow, smells like someone made a pie!"
Jeff is a bit nervous about gooseberries (probably due to the last time I made this) but luckily we still have a little French Coconut pie left over. I have a feeling I'll be trying this pie and Jeff will play it safe by sticking to the coconut...we'll see.
The Verdict: Star Baker or Leaving the Tent?
This pie is tart! But not too tart. It has a wonderful sweet/tart thing going on. My dad (a big tart pie fan) would have loved it, I think. May not be for everyone but I like it - and the crumble topping gives it a really nice crunch. And it wasn't soupy at all! I'd say Very Good.
(I suppose you could call it a "triple pie" night as Jeff made his fabulous pizzas for dinner - they do call it pizza pie, after all. For now I'll say this was one pie, the gooseberry, made for the blog but I reserve the right to call pizzas "pies" in the future...if I need to add a few to reach sixty pies.)
(FYI I was right - Jeff is finishing off the coconut pie and has yet to try the gooseberry. More for me, I guess!)