14 May 2011

14 May - Jamestowne; Gooseberry Foole

On this day in 1607, 104 men in three ships landed on Jamestown Island, and - in accordance with their instructions to settle in Virginia, find gold, and find a passage to the Orient - established a fort and the first permanent English settlement in North America.  Not that the founders knew it would be permanent.  For at least the next 20 years, the new settlement was in constant danger of being wiped out by starvation, sickness, and local irate indigenous people.

You can read a history of the settlement with a timeline at Preservation Virginia's Historic Jamestowne pages; check out the lists of early settlers and their occupations - there were a lot more gentlemen than there were laborers (I'm descended from one of the Second Supply).

Well, they were a brave bunch of hardy souls.  I remember seeing the re-creation of the Susan Constant and declaring that I wouldn't even cross the James River in it, let alone the Atlantic.  And it is the largest of the three ships.

Celebrate the tenacity of these earliest colonizers with a GOOSEBERRY  FOOLE.

This recipe comes, courtesy of Project Gutenberg, from "The Compleat Cook Expertly Prescribing The Most Ready Wayes, Whether Italian, Spanish Or French, for Dressing Of Flesh And Fish, Ordering Of Sauces Or Making Of Pastry" and after a title like that, you'd expect a really grand author's name, but no - the author is a mere "W.M."

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 them 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 youlke of two or three Eggs; you may put Rose-water into them, and so stir it altogether, and serve it to the Table when it is cold.

Or you can go the modern route:

Remove the stem and blossom ends of 1 quart of gooseberries.  Wash them.  Combine berries, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan.  Cook over low heat until the berries are tender, stirring occasionally.  Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if needed [do not skip this part.  You don't want to find out later that your gooseberries turned out to be more tart than you expected].

Strain the berries, and save 2 -3 berries per serving for a garnish.  Put the rest in a blender and make a puree, or just mash them with a fork.  Cool.

Whip 2 cups of heavy cream to soft peak stage.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the fruit puree.  Spoon or pipe the mixture into stemmed glasses, garnish with the remaining berries. Chill before serving.