When I was a teenager, I was taken on as a trainee reporter at the Melton Times weekly newspaper. One of our jobs was to go out into the town and obtain comments from residents. These were called ‘doing a vox pop.’ We would ask for views on local planning applications, council proposals, and any controversial subjects the editor could think of. There were no mobile phones in those days, so with no-one keeping track of us, we would be out about about for hours. Vox pops were one of my favourite jobs because I loved chatting to people. We just knocked on doors, said who we were, where we were from, and people let us in! Two hours later, we would leave, with our one paragraph comments, nicely replenished with home-made cake and numerous cups of tea. One elderly gentleman that stays in my memory was called Albert. I can’t remember what the vox pop was about, but when I knocked on the door, he took me straight through to the garden where he showed me his fruit and vegetables. He had rows and rows of gooseberries- green ones, yellow, and red, glistening in the sunshine as if they had been polished. The pruning demonstration and growing advice took an hour, and at the end we sat down and had the most delicious crumble I’ve ever eaten, gooseberries flavoured with elderflower syrup and crunchy almonds on top. At that moment, I was happy. I think we store up such moments in our memories, and come back to them from time to time. I have a picture in my head of me, sitting on a dining room chair brought out into the garden, enjoying the sunshine, eating delicious food. Albert, a widower in his 90s, lived alone. For one afternoon, he had someone’s rapt attention while he talked about his passion for growing fruit. I was very glad that I’d knocked on his door. In those few short hours, I learned about the generosity of gardeners, how a love of growing things, and sharing with others, drives some people. And kindness. I learned a lot about kindness. Looking back, I’m grateful and relieved to say most people I’ve chanced to meet have been kind. I’ve tried to honour their memory in this blog.
Here’s my Gooseberry Crumble Recipe – with grateful thanks to Albert, and his two ginger cats, who made me equally welcome in their garden.
RECIPE – CRUMBLE TOPPING
8oz (225g) plain flour
5oz (150g) soft light brown sugar
3oz (75g) butter or dairy alternative
2 tbsp flaked almonds (optional)
1 level tsp. baking powder
Place the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and add the butter. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until it has all been dispersed fairly evenly and the mixture looks crumbly. Add the sugar and almonds and stir well to combine.
Use 2lb (900g) gooseberries
2 tbsp elderflower syrup or cordial
Top and tail the fruit and place in a large pie dish. Sprinkle over the elderflower syrup and cover with the crumble mixture.
Bake in the centre shelf of an oven at 350F/ 180C/ gas mark 4 for 30- 40 minutes. Check to see if the topping is getting too brown after 30 minutes and cover with foil to finish cooking.
Keeps three days in a fridge, or can be portioned up and frozen for three months. Thaw before reheating.
Serve with custard, or thick double cream.
My crumble mixture. Without almonds as a guest had an allergy to nuts.
All that was left of our family gooseberry crumble. I was lucky to have this piece left for the photo!
Gooseberries from my garden.
I recommend Hinnomaki Red, green Invicta, and yellow Early Sulphur. These can be grown in a shaded position. Like many fruit that is ‘tart,’ sunshine isn’t needed to make high sugar levels. So you can grow gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, raspberries and sour cherries such as Morello in shade.
Gooseberries will grow in full sun, but they are tolerant of shade, so it’s much better to save your sunny beds and borders for peaches, sweet cherry (Celeste is a good variety) gages and plums.
Thank you for reading this blog. I hope you enjoy the recipes. Have a great gardening week. Karen ❤️
Links: You might like to read https://bramblegarden.com/2018/07/26/summer-fruit-harvest-and-making-garden-jam/