Gooseberry pie: Many ways to make this old-fashioned dessert (1960)
By Hoyt Alden – Sunday News (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) September 4, 1960
I’m happy to report that the gooseberry pie is not extinct. It is still enshrined in the hearts and the private recipe collections of a lot of people.
In answer to our recent plea for a recipe for gooseberry pie, we received no less than 35 letters, all assuring us there is a large army of gooseberry pie lovers still alive in the nation, and most of them enclosing their favorite recipes.
Some were moved to nostalgia. Like Mrs. A. W. Higgason of Xenia, Illinois. “Gooseberry pie! You take me back at least 60 years,” she wrote. “I have known gooseberries from the time I set the thorny starts, and hoed them for two years, through the Paris-green dusting for the two-toned green looper worms that ate all the leaves.
“The sitting on the rag rug to pick all the berries, the trying in vain to get all the thorns out of my fingers. And the slow stemming job that was worst of all . . . By the time we had stemmed 10 or 15 gallons of berries, with thumb and forefinger throbbing, we could hardly wait to eat the berries until they’d been made into pies in the winter.
“We stewed gooseberries with sugar and poured them over hot soda biscuits. We made preserves and jelly after they had ripened a little.
“We played a game where we tried to see who could put the most berries into his mouth at once. Twenty was my limit, and I was always bested by some other kid who had a larger mouth or a greater resistance to acid.”
ALSO SEE: 7 delicious old-fashioned pineapple pie recipes: Real classic ways to make this tropical dessert
There’s a woman into whose early life gooseberries were inextricably woven. In other words, she knows her gooseberries, and here’s her recipe:
“If you use fresh gooseberries, put two cups of them in cold water and heat through. Drain them. Add a walnut of butter, a pinch of salt, two tablespoons of flour and a cup and a fourth of sugar. Stir until the sugar and flour are moist and the butter in small pieces.
“Pour it in a pie crust, cover with a top crust and bake until the liquid bubbles thickly up through the slits in the top crust and the top is brown.”
There are two schools of gooseberry pie makers, I gather, those who use fresh gooseberries and those who use canned.
“Fresh are hard to come by,” writes Mrs. Edwin Cox. “so I use canned. It’s my husband’s favorite dessert. I buy canned gooseberries in heavy syrup.
Add about three tablespoons of minute tapioca to the syrup and cook until thick. Remove from the heat and add two tablespoons of butter, then the berries, and pour it into a pastry shell. Add a top crust and bake at 425 degrees for 50 minutes.”
Writes Golda Johnson of Benton, “I admit it’s a pie you don’t see served very much anymore, but it’s my husband’s favorite. I too make it on a hit or miss basis, but it usually turns out delicious. It’s sour enough to make a pig squeal, if you know how sour that is.
“Place pie dough in pan, cover with half a cup or more of sugar. Add berries to cover, add another half cup or more of sugar, dot generously with butter and a sprinkle of salt. Put on top crust, bake in a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat and bake 20 minutes longer.”
Mrs. Elmer Guebert, after reading our article, was a little dubious. “But I read through several cookbooks,” she wrote, “and was surprised I couldn’t find a recipe.” Mrs. Guebert finally compromised by adapting a recipe for rhubarb pie to gooseberries.
MORE: A baker’s dozen delightfully delicious vintage pecan pie recipes
“I just never thought,” wrote Mrs. Leslie Burrow,”that you would ever be stumped for a recipe.”
Shucks. ma’am, I wasn’t really. I just wanted to see how many good cooks there were around who could make a gooseberry pie.
“My mother,” writes Mrs. H. L. Brewer, “always made gooseberry pie cobbler style.” (Mine often did, too.) “But not the kind where pastry is put on the top.
“She lined a long pan with dough — not quite as short as pie dough — and rolled a little thicker. She put in the filling and then flopped the dough over. The corner pieces were the best.” And how.
ALSO TRY: Johnny Appleseed Pie recipe: Vintage-style apple pie made with maple syrup (1972)
Another who remembers gooseberries with both fondness and loathing is Mrs. C. R. Willard of Lebanon, Missouri: “The gooseberry story in my family goes back 75 years. My parents moved to a river farm on the Gasconade. There were wild Ozark gooseberries growing in the river bottom. Mother set out 30 gooseberry bushes in our barn lot.
“By the time I was a small girl, we were picking 100 gallons of berries from the patch each year. Five gills in the family, as well as some of the neighbors were kept busy…
“I still can gooseberries every year… Too bad you’re not close enough to come over for a piece of pie and a cup of coffee.”
“Gooseberry pie!” writes Elizabeth Schrieber of Clayton, Mo. “Of course. Not thane little gooseberries we used to know and scratch ourselves to death trying to pick, but the big California kind that aren’t as tasty — but beggars can’t be choosers.
“Anyone who can make a fruit pie can make a gooseberry pie, like this:
“Wash and pick the berries, that is, remove the little beard that grows at blossom end and the stem from the other. Line the pie pan with rich pastry and sprinkle it with a thick layer of flour.
“Put in the berries, cover generously with flour and a cup and a half of sugar. Remember, they are very tart. Dot with butter, put on the top crust and bake for an hour at 330 degrees. If you don’t like this, well…”
Mrs. Edwin Hartmann of Normandy, Missouri, sends an old family recipe: Make two nine-inch pie crusts. Clean and wash four cups of gooseberries. On the bottom pie crust, put a tablespoon of flour, a half cup of sugar and a teaspoon of tapioca, mixed together.
Mix the berries with a cup and a fourth of sugar, a teaspoon of tapioca, a pinch of salt, four tablespoons of water and two tablespoons of melted butter. Pour it in the pie shell, put on the top crust, cut slits in it, bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Our meanest correspondent was Mrs. Helen Dobkins of Steelville, Mo. She sent us a recipe from a Farm Journal cookbook, then added at the bottom: “My own special recipe is very yummy. But it’s a secret.”
DON’T MISS THIS: 6 classic gooseberry preserve recipes
Simple old-fashioned gooseberry pie & gooseberry tart recipes (1967)
by Pat Williams – The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) June 21, 1967
Even though these are excellent recipes for gooseberry pies, remember that gooseberries are very scarce. The berries are extremely fragile, and this makes them almost impossible to ship.
As we understand it, some people do grow them in home gardens, and occasionally some local grower may take a chance and sell them at a roadside stand. But they are often hard to find.
Here are two simple recipes, one for gooseberry pie and one for gooseberry tarts.
Gooseberry pie with warm spices
This gooseberry pie recipe is sprinkled with warm spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg — the basic ingredients for pumpkin spice mix.