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Off the fork: Gooseberry crumble

This crumble is great with any berries.

A crumble for any berry.

It’s a bear market. By which I mean when I go to the market, I behave like a bear; gathering berries with my paws, bringing them home to my den, and consuming them quickly and voraciously. 

Gooseberries make me especially bearish, for they are my favorite. A fruit with a long heritage, and a complex flavor that is sweet, tart and tannic at the same time, this berry thickens as it cooks, so my pie will not get runny, and my cake will never sog. You can find the best ones at Briermere Farm, on Sound Avenue in Riverhead, and at Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue.

This crumble recipe is based on one in “Fruit Book,” by the great Jane Grigson, an English food writer whose books are still the best reference for someone who, for example, comes into possession of a carambola and wants to know what to do with it. 

Grigson pointed out the natural affinity between gooseberries and elderflower, a flavor match made in heaven, so I added two spoons of St. Germain, an elderberry cordial, to the crumble batter and reached for the clouds. And if the gooseberries run out, you can substitute cherries or blueberries in this recipe.

Gooseberry Crumble
based on a recipe by Jane Grigson

1 quart of gooseberries, topped and tailed (pinch off the stem and flower ends of each berry with your fingers, a scissors, or a knife)

4 tablespoons of Demerara sugar

2 tablespoons of butter

The cake:

1 and ¼ cup flour

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

8 pecans, shelled and chopped fine

2 tablespoons St. Germain (elderflower liqueur) or gin.

Melt the butter and sugar in an 8-inch diameter soufflé or an oven-safe serving dish.

Add the berries in an even layer to completely cover the bottom of the dish, packed tightly.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. 

Cut in the butter until it is the size of small peas

Add the pecans, egg, and liqueur and stir just until moistened. 

Spread the cake mixture over the fruit, and cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the top is brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

Gooseberry Sauce for Bluefish

1 and ¼ cup gooseberries – no need to remove stems for this recipe

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon sugar

2/3 cup cream

Put the gooseberries in a heavy pan with the butter and sugar, cover and heat until the berries start to run. Uncover and cook a few minutes, until they are soft, but not watery. 

Press the cooked gooseberries through a sieve to remove the stems and skins.

Mix the pulpy fruit with the cream, and spoon it over broiled or baked bluefish filets, mackerel or any dark-fleshed fish.