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« Patching together food traditions | Main | Fare thee well my dear 20's »

Ground Cherries Preserves

Like with a dream, I have no idea how my relationship with ground cherries began. Last summer, I found myself scrounging around in my bag at the Union Square greenmarket in NYC for spare change, laundry money, as much as I could pull together to purchase these intriguing fruits.

I ended up with 5 pints and a homework assignment to figure out what the heck these things are and why they’re so hard to pin down flavorwise. Ground cherries, also called cape gooseberries, belong to the same genus as tomatillos, the Physalis genus and they’re native to the Americas. Biting into one is an explosion in your mouth, the unlikely yet interesting flavor convergence of something like cantaloupe and blueberries.


I once read somewhere that they’re traditionally dipped in chocolate, husks slicked back and served as dessert (maybe in Spain?). Then I found this fun blog with a post on just that, chocolate-dipped ground cherries.

I, of course, made preserves. It’s worth noting that I sealed my micro-batch for shelf-storage so I could enjoy a little jar at various points throughout the year. You do not need to seal this size batch, as a pint of jam or two half-pints will keep in the fridge for at least 3 months. The recipe is safe for a waterbath; quarter-pint jars processed for 5 minutes or half-pint jars processed for 10 minutes.

Ground Cherries Preserves

yield 4 quarter-pint jars

1. Place the following in a preserving pan (a heavy, bottomed, stainless steel or enameled cast iron pot) and place over med-low heat the following ingredients:

  • 1lb 9oz husked ground cherries (which was 5 pints’ worth)
  • 1 small lemon juiced (about 3 Tbs)
  • 2 cups sugar

2. Remove pot from heat once all sugar granules are dissolved, pour into a bowl and place in fridge with a piece of parchment paper and a plate to cover top of bowl.

3. The next day, pour the mixture back into your preserving pan and bring to a boil. It will take about 8-12 minutes for your preserves to set, depending on the type of pan you use and possibly the sugar.

4. [optional] Mash some or all of the ground cherries with a potato masher to whatever consistency you prefer. I like to do this because it varies the consistency of the spread and pops out the seeds from about half of the berries.

5. Ladle hot preserves into hot jars and seal in waterbath (please refer to instructions for this in many of the other Canning & Home Food Preserving tagged posts) or ladle into one or two larger jars and place in the fridge; it will keep (if you don’t gobble it all up) anywhere between 3-6 months.

Variation and reduction: Italian Granny Ground Cherries Preserves

This year I only managed to snag 3 pints. The farmer even gave me a dollar off, which whas sweet because she didn’t have to, since they’d all sell anyway and a 3-for deal wasn’t helping her out at all. Anyhow, I wanted to experiment with flavors despite the fact that I ended up with roughly half of last year’s batch.

I made the recipe (halved all ingredients) as listed in steps 1-3 above, but just after mashing the fruit and determining a good set I tossed in a sprig of fresh thyme (from my garden!), removed the pot from heat and let it steep (covered) for 5 minutes. After which point I added 1/4 teaspoon of Meyer limoncello to the spread and was pleased with the subtlety and mingling of the Meyer and thyme.

I sealed my two quarter-pint jars, and proceeded to place them on the shelf where the only-opened-on-special-occasions jars go (which is not in the back yard).

Dang, it feels good to name a signature batch of preserves again. [Missing last year’s Tigress Can Jam sorely!]

p.s. Italian Granny Ground Cherries Preserves are divine atop a spanish cheese and my recent food swap loot, gravlax!

Reader Comments (46)

I grew groundcherries last year. I didn't particularly like the flavor, but they were a big hit at the farmer's market. Every single person I gave a free sample to ended up buying a bag.

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaedre Craig

GROUND CHERRIES! My old CSA used to give us about 10 a week for two weeks and I loved every minute of it. I've found them at the farmer's market this year, but not enough to preserve. Enough to make salads awesome, though.

(I also really miss the can jam)

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Could you put them through a food mill to get the seeds out or are the seeds part of the flavor?

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKami


July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpattyskypants

Kami, I'd say the seeds are pretty innocuous and don't really add or take away from flavor, so putting the mixture through a food mill would be an unnecessary step that might even take away some of your volume.

July 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterKate

I discovered ground cherries last year at the farmers market & thought they might be a good stand in for tomatillos in salsa verde. They weren't terrible, but they got kinda grapey which made me think they'd be great with wine. I made jam with them & included some local sweet white wine in one batch & champagne in another. It was amazing!

July 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I've been growing ground cherries for years and never seem to get enough to make jam (only because we eat them before they even leave the garden!) Last year I bought a jar of preserves in Montreal and I treasured it. It was gold in my fridge. Special occasion for me was sitting and eating it by the spoonful, alone. Love your treasure!

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

Groundcherries, oh I love them. I love both the cape groundcherries and the milder Amish groundcherries. So good. I've grown both, but am never able to get enough to preserve. Now, I'll just have to make sure I have even more next year so I can try your ideas.

That cracker with salmon, cheese, and preserves looks divine. Yum!

July 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

These are lovely candied. Pull back the husks but leave them on, then dip them in a 2-to-1 sugar syrup, then roll in superfine sugar and allow them to dry. Wicked garnish on a vanilla-vanilla mini cupcake or a white chocolate tart. They also make awesome chutney. If you dedicate a corner of the garden and let a few drop you'll have tons of plants next year for all your ground cherry needs! Thanks for the great site.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

I have invasive ground cherries in my garden so after reading the posts here, I tried my own recipe. Put them through my Vitamix with an couple overripe peaches, lemon juice and vanilla bean. I've added pectin for jam but this would be a beautiful ice cream topping. Maybe a few candied or chocolate dipped fresh berries alongside. Thanks for the great ideas.

September 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynne

I tried this and it didn't set up well. Did I not cook it long enough? Also, very very sweet. Would it work with less sugar? Thanks.

I actually love the seeds in these little gems. I love the way they look in the jars in your photograph. Without them it would look dark and less appetizing.

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Hi Kate,
These are more of a preserve as written, not really a jam, so it's going to be very loose. You could mash them more as they cook and be sure to cook it longer if you want a firmer spread. You could do less sugar, but much less will alter the ability for the spread to thicken naturally (without adding pectin).

September 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterKate

Kate - What is the purpose of storing the cooked berries in the fridge overnight? Have you tried hot water bath as soon as you pull it off the stove?

I tried a jar I bought at a local farmer's market this summer and the maker put what to me was a ton of citrus in their jam - including the rind - which totally ruined the experience for me - it was NOT my grandmother's jam.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

I follow the French method of preserving for many of the hard-to-find or expensive fruits I encounter, the method a la Christine Ferber, which allows the berries to develop in flavor, macerate, in the acidified sugar syrup over time. You could certainly cook them completely and can them right away, but I can't say what the flavor difference would be since I haven't tried it that way.

September 15, 2012 | Registered CommenterKate

Kate - Thanks for the quick response. I picked up 6 pints of ground cherries at the farmer's market this morning - measured 1 1/2 pounds and will try both methods and see what the difference is. I will use my grandmother's recipe, such as it is - although I have no idea if she preserved using a water bath or wax. My mother used both methods. I'll let you know how it goes.

September 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

Ground cherries are really hard to find in the Midwest. Most people think they are not worth the bother....but I am in love with them. My mother made the most heavenly ground cherry pie. It's a whole berry pie, thickened with tapioca. YUM!

September 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

What is the purpose of using parchment paper over the bowl?

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterwilliam

Thanks for this post. I planted ground cherries by accident (thought they were tomatillos). You are the only one I could find that gave any clue on what to do with them. Loving these preserves and it is getting rave reviews from everyone I do a taste test with.

August 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Thank you so much for this post. My husband first tried these at a Farmer's Market and now this is our second year growing them. They were in pots on the patio last year and seedlings came up through the bricks this year from last years fallen fruit, so we have a large crop and were trying to figure out what to do with them. I can't wait to try these preserves.

September 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Ground cherries will keep just fine for a couple of months if you leave them in their husks and keep them cool but not cold. I keep mine in a bowl in the kitchen near the A/C vent. Let them accumulate until you have enough to make a batch of jam. I grew just two plants this year and plan to grow more next year. A bit of history - the pioneers planted them and used them until their fruit trees grew in each new location they moved to.

September 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeza

Ground cherries. Have been finely chopped can I still made jam if so how?

May 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

Judy, you can still make jam with chopped ground cherries, follow the recipe as you would above just omit step 2. I have lots of jam making posts here on the blog that can help you with anything else you might have questions about regarding jam!

May 6, 2014 | Registered CommenterKate

I grew up with grandparents growing ground cherries and making pies and preserves and now my son and I grow them every year. Some years are better than others for yield, but I use quality seed (Seed Savers, Decorah , IA) and get tons of plants that need to be thinned in my garden. They freeze very well. Just husk, wash and freeze until solid on a cookie sheet in your freezer. Then transfer to freezer boxes or bags. Keep freezing until you get enough for a batch. I enjoy them all winter long! Always one of the first pies to get eaten at our annual church ice cream social.

June 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLori

Brought my first harvest of ground cherries to the Farmer's Market this morning, lots of comments! They are so good; I googled for more specific information and your site is packed with information and just lovely besides. Thanks!

August 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMartha

Thank you, Martha!

August 9, 2014 | Registered CommenterKate

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