W. M. on Making ‘Gooseberry Fool’

"Take your Gooseberries, and put them in a Silver or Earthen pot and set it in a Skillet of boyling Water, and when they are coddled enough strain them, then make then hot again, when they are scalding hot, beat them very well with a good piece of fresh butter, Rose-water and Sugar, and put in the yolke of two or three Eggs ; you may put Rose-water into then and so stir it altogether, and serve it to the Table when it is cold."

W. M. The Compleat Cook, 1662

It’s gooseberry season (huzzah!) so I’ve been trawling through my stash of downloaded historical recipe books, looking for interesting ways to make use of this superbly tart and hugely under-rated little green fruit, such as Eliza Smith’s ‘Gooseberry Tansey’ recipe of 1729.

Today’s offering isn’t the first version of ‘gooseberry fool’ that I’ve posted, but it is rather different to Esther Copley’s 1838 gooseberry fool recipe, which features a much more typical blend of milk and cream in with the pan-fried gooseberries.

Instead, this much earlier version calls for coddled and strained gooseberry pulp, which is heated to scalding before being thickened with butter, sugar and egg yolks, then flavoured – rather heavily it seems to me – with rose-water. I’d prefer to use vanilla myself, but that probably wasn’t an option back in the mid seventeenth century.

I reckon it would be really interesting to run a taste comparison of these two versions of gooseberry fool. I might give it a go myself, but if you have enough time and gooseberries on your hands to beat me to it, or just fancy trying today’s recipe, please do let me know how you get on. Feel free to leave a comment below, or send me an email with your notes and photos if you’d like me to post a follow-up piece for you, here on Orchard Notes.

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