This summer was an extraordinarily good one for growing soft fruit. Rhubarb, raspberries, gooseberries, tayberries, blackcurrants and strawberries all produced massive crops.
We seemed to be eating fresh raspberries and strawberries with every meal. I feel I’ve eaten my own weight in pies and crumbles. We have enough jam to last for years. And still the freezer drawers are stuffed with fruit.
With Christmas approaching rapidly, freezer space just had to be created, so I’ve been experimenting with gooseberries and I’m happy to share the knowledge acquired at great personal sacrifice.
An interesting gooseberry jelly recipe.
Put 500g of green gooseberries in a saucepan with a few mls of water and heat gently until the fruit is soft. Crush fruit with a potato masher and rub it through a fine sieve. Return the pulp to the pan, add 300mls of water, re-heat and crush again. Pass through the sieve, combining the two lots of collected liquid.
Transfer the liquid to the pan and heat gently. Add sugar slowly, stirring to dissolve. Keep tasting and adding sugar until it tastes just right for you, the tartness of the fruit just off-set by the sugar.
Dissolve in a setting agent. I use VegeSet, it’s tasteless, dissolves easily and sets reliably.
Line up your favourite wine glasses. How many you need will depend upon how much juice you extracted from the gooseberries.
Thinly slice some ripe strawberries and put a 3cm layer in the bottom of each glass. Cover the strawberries in a generous tot of gin, then fill the glass with the gooseberry liquid and place in the fridge.
As the alcoholic jelly sets, red colour is leached from the strawberries and the final colour is a pretty mix of red and green.
It’s a bonus that I can enjoy eating them while feeling noble about creating freezer space.
The blurred image may well be due to camera shake resulting from too much sampling.
I really don’t understand how it has taken me so many years to finally get around to reading this book. I’ve come across references to the book from time to time and been interested enough to look into buying it, but then complications have arisen. Holdstock wrote a short story, then a novella, and then a full length novel, all with the title Mythago Wood. He then wrote six more novels in the series, some being set before the events in Mythago Wood, and some after, and some having the words Mythago Wood in the title.
Publishers increased my confusion by bringing out collections of some of the books, but the original novel seemed to be out of print for a long time. So my rather pathetic excuse for not having read it is that I was never sure that I would be buying what I wanted. I eventually bought a secondhand paperback I found in a charity shop.
I’m glad to say that the position has simplified. A new edition has just been published by Gollancz and is available in print and ebook formats.
If, like me, you are a fan of fantasy then I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is simply brilliant – a worthy winner of The World Fantasy Award For Best Novel.
It is set in Ryhope Wood, which appears on maps as a small wood covering some three square miles, but it is a magical place where dwell the mythological creatures of ages long passed – the mythagos. Go into the wood and you enter a wild labyrinth which leads you through zones representing all the ages of mankind, and in each zone you’ll find (or they’ll find you) the mythological creatures created by mankind in that era.
In the finest Celtic tradition the story takes the form of a quest as two brothers each follow in the footsteps of their father, all of them searching for the enchanting woman they all believe left the wood to visit them in the family home that stands at the border of the wood.
You’ll find the new edition on sale on Amazon Mythago Wood (FANTASY MASTERWORKS)
I found this well-written novel most enjoyable. It’s a current-day tale of human relationships: sometimes loving, sometimes jealous, sometimes violent. There’s a strong cast of well-drawn characters and the world of the reclusive, but famous, portrait painter felt authentic. The central character is driven by the basic human need to belong and to feel at peace. It all takes place under the shadow of a past tragic event, the truth of which slowly emerges.
The Provence setting is captured beautifully; I could smell the lavender and feel the mistral blowing through what’s left of my hair.
It’s a satisfying read and it’s available in both print and ebook formats from Amazon Silent Faces, Painted Ghosts