Most gooseberries in the US are either Ribes uva-crispa (European gooseberry), Ribes hirtellum (American gooseberry), or a variant of one of these. Fruit from European gooseberries are larger and reportedly more flavorful but the plants are very susceptible to powdery mildew. American gooseberries, on the other hand, are resistant to mildew and are more productive. Both kinds of gooseberry carry white pine blister rust and were banned in the US until 1966. The berries may be white, yellow, green, or red with the red ones being the sweetest. My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, included 8 recipes using gooseberries in her book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines (published 1909), and one of them calls for both red and green gooseberries. There is no way of knowing, however, what species of gooseberry Grandmother intended.

Here is the recipe for red and white gooseberry wine in the words of my grandmother:

Take one and one-half gallons cold soft water, three quarts red gooseberries, two quarts white gooseberries. Ferment. Now mix two and one-half pounds raw sugar, three-quarters pound honey, one-half ounce tartar in fine powder. Afterwards put in one ounce bitter almonds, a small handful sweet briar, two quarts brandy or less.

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By Karen