Devilled Gooseberry Sauce and Tarragon Vinegar

Around five or six years ago I got a little carried away (well, actually very carried away) at the Pick Your Own farm and came home with far too many gooseberries for the classic sauces and jams that I wanted to make. Looking through some of my cookery books for inspiration I found a recipe for a ‘Spicy Gooseberry Sauce’ in a Sainsbury’s Fish Cooking book published back in the 1980s. This was a little different to the classic, simple gooseberry sauces for fish. Essentially, it’s a good old-fashioned devilled sauce with a mix of ingredients more reminiscent of chutney than a smooth sauce. The British tradition of devilled sauces often seems to be on its last gasps and I think that’s a great shame. I made a version of the classic Gubbins Sauce a little while ago but this fruitier sauce is at least as useful.

I’ve developed and complicated the recipe since then but, despite a long list of ingredients, it’s really easy to make and very versatile. It’s good with oily fish such as mackerel but it’s also very pleasing with chicken, duck and especially pork. It can even be served hot or cold. I usually make a fair bit of this sauce while the gooseberries are ripe for picking and freeze it in small batches. It’s intensely flavoured and 100 – 125 ml of sauce per person is normally plenty (unless you’re really addicted to the flavour like me).

This sauce contains some tarragon vinegar and so a quick seasonal digression on that subject first…..

Tarragon Vinegar

French Tarragon
It’s possible to make a multitude of differently flavoured vinegars and many of them are very worthwhile but there are two that have proved especially useful to me throughout the year for sauces, marinades and dressings: blackberry vinegar and tarragon vinegar.

There are a number of ways to make tarragon vinegar but I use a very simple method. Pick three long, fresh stems of French tarragon, wash and dry them and put them into a 500ml bottle of white wine vinegar. Shake the bottle a bit and put it in a cupboard for a week or ten days, shaking occasionally if you remember, until it seems to have the right amount of herby taste. Filter the vinegar and put it in a pretty bottle. And that’s all there is to it. You can put a fresh sprig of tarragon in the bottle, which looks nice if you’re giving it as a gift, but has the disadvantage of making the tarragon flavour stronger over time and so can make it tricky to judge how much to add to recipes.

That’s the end of the digression and so back to….

Devilled Gooseberry Sauce

Devilled Gooseberry Sauce
The amounts given here will make around 1250 – 1300 ml of finished sauce.

900 g gooseberries
3 tsp English mustard powder
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100 g sultanas
1 tsp salt
200 ml cider vinegar
50 ml balsamic vinegar (use a cheap one unless you’re particularly wealthy)
50 ml tarragon vinegar
2 tsp dark soy sauce
200 g light brown soft sugar
100 g dark muscovado sugar
250 ml water

Wash the gooseberries, top and tail them if they need it and remove any damaged or unpleasant bits. Then simply put all the ingredients together in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to the boil while stirring frequently. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer very gently, uncovered, for 30 – 40 minutes until the gooseberries have collapsed and the flavours have mingled.

Allow the mixture to cool a little and then liquidise it. Work the sauce through a fine sieve and that’s all there is to it. (Told you it was easy). Taste and adjust the sweet and sour balance with a little sugar or vinegar if it seems to need it.
I know that the tarragon is only a small (but important) part of this finished sauce but nonetheless I thought I’d enter this into the July Herbs on Saturday blog challenge created by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and hosted this month by Vanesther from Bangers and Mash.


  1. Your sauce sounds absolutely delicious and is a perfect entry for this month's Herbs on Saturday. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. now this is very interesting... I have a gooseberry bush that it about to ripen and have been wracking my brains to think of recipes that are not the usual thing... I may have to make me a little pot of this... thanks for the inspiration Phil x

  3. I could VERY easily get carried away with PYO gooseberries, as I think they are probably my favourite berry, and I have fond memories of them growing in my grandparent's garden in Northumberland.....hundreds of bushes; grandma made the MOST divine jam with them, as well as a lovely gooseberry sauce for fish. However, I digress, this is a VERY interesting recipe idea, as I have just made my own tarragon vinegar and I am a BIG lover of fish, so, I may try this sauce to go with some grilled mackerel I have. A GREAT entry into Herbs on Saturday, thanks very much! Karen

  4. I always have tarragon vinegar in the house. This recipe sounds very yummy, now I need to find some gooseberries :) Diane

  5. This is new to me and the last time I had gooseberries was ages ago so I don't even remember what they taste like.
    This is an interesting sauce and I will bookmark it. I am curious to try it.

  6. Sounds so delicious Phil; we have fish tonight, and I do hope I can get some gooseberries to create your delicous sauce, thanks for sharing!

  7. Oh that looks like such a beautiful sauce. Almost reminiscent of mango chutney, in a way? I am going to be doing a lot of berry picking this year, so I am going to have to find out if I can get gooseberries here. And your tarragon vinegar idea is so clever. What other herbs can I use? I am growing oregano, parsley (which is taking over) mint and sage? Or does it have to be tarragon? I can find some in the markets if I have to.

    1. Sorry for not replying before now - I've been out of the reach of technology yet again. You can certainly use different herbs in the vinegars - lemon thyme and sage are very good, for instance. But there's something about tarragon vinegar that's unique in my opinion. The tarragon combines with the vinegar and the flavour changes and intensifies in a different way to other herbs. Or maybe that's just me.

  8. I love gooseberries and this sauce sounds really interesting. Didn't know much about devilled sauces, but since your post, have found some in my newly acquired 'Constance Spry cookery book' so will give those a try too. Thanks Phil.

    1. I'm very fond of my ancient copy of Constance Spry and devilled sauces and marinades do seem to capture that era really well. I seem to remember that Rosemary Hume was fond of using Worcestershire sauce in her devilled sauces and there's nothing at all wrong with that. I must reread that chapter.

  9. That looks great. I have never seen gooseberries used for anything but pie and jam. I am madly into fish at the moment, so I would love to give this a go with some salmon.

  10. Hi, I'm dropping by via Herbs on Saturday. What a unique sauce - I would certainly have been able to imagine it up. Learned something new today.


Post a Comment

Sorry but I've had to switch word verification on due to a vast amount of very depressing spam.

Popular posts from this blog

Palestine Soup

Hollygog Pudding

Duck Apicius