Its been almost a month since we returned from India and getting back to the grind has been so very hard. Post-vacation hangover would be the right way to put it I guess :-( Anyway, to top it off this time I returned almost empty handed, in the sense that I didn't come back loaded with ingredients. Since almost everything is available here in Dubai (and plus I have tons of unused stuff from last year's haul) I decided to only bring the absolute must-have's in a Mangalorean cook's kitchen - turmeric leaves and bimblis (botanical name: Averrhoa Bilimbi). This year however, I did bring back a few star gooseberries (Phyllanthus Acidus) which I planned to preserve in sugar syrup. My mother in law gave me some instructions on how to make this preserve and since I had prepared several varieties of jams before this one was super easy to make.
Raaz avaley as we call them in Konkani are a variety of gooseberries that have ribs along their surface, a cross section of which would reveal in a rough star shape. These fruits are pale yellow or yellowish green in colour and are crisp and sour when you bite into them. I have the fondest memories of picking the fruit for my grandma who would then make the preserve. Sometime she would pickle them, the recipe of which I hope to get from her soon. When pickles and preserves were made and the tree would still have some more of its bounty to offer us, we would sit with a pile and enjoy them, sometimes sprinkled with a little salt.
From the fruit to its leaves, this plant is used medicinally. While the fruit is eaten as a blood enhancer for the liver, the leaves are used to make a poultice to treat sciatica, lumbago and rheumatism, the seeds are used as a cathartic and roots as purgative (courtesy: wikipedia). With so many health benefits its about time you plucked those fruits and ate them fresh (if you have the tree!) or just make this preserve and enjoy them for a longer time!
Cup measure used 1 cup = 240ml
- 350 grams (2-1/2 cups) star gooseberries (raaz avale)
- 300ml (1-1/4 cups) water
- 300 grams (1-/1/2 cups) granulated white sugar (adjust to taste)
1. Remove stalks and wash the gooseberries in a couple of changes of water. Keep aside.
2. Wash and sterilize a glass bottle to store the preserve. You can either boil the bottle in a pot of water or place the bottle in an oven heated to 200 degrees C for about 15 minutes or place the bottle in a short cycle in your dishwasher. Once done there should be no moisture inside the bottle or its cap.
3. Add the water and sugar into the heavy based pan and cook the mixture on a medium heat till it begins to bubble.
4. Add the gooseberries and stir every now and then till the colour changes from pale green to brownish-red. Take care to see that the heat is maintained on a medium low and the sugar syrup doesn't caramelize. If the colour of the preserve does not look red it is okay. Remove when the syrup is still a bit runny as it will harden as it cools. If you wait for the colour to change you could risk over caramelization of the sugar.
5. Remove the pan from heat and using a clean, dry spoon transfer the preserve (while it is still hot) into the sterilized container and seal the cap tight. Keep the bottle aside to cool completely. If sealed properly you should hear a 'pop' sound when you try to open the bottle.
6. Once opened use up within 2 weeks or refrigerate for a longer shelf life.
The preserve can be enjoyed as is. It is not spreadable like traditional jams due to the presence of the stone (seed) inside the gooseberries, but they do get softened due to the cooking so you can chew the small ones and discard the bigger ones.