Here’s a shortcut a wine grape grower’s wife shared with me, for topping and tailing gooseberries. We use them in jam and pies, both of which I love, but it’s always seemed unfair to me that you first get pricked by the thorns and then you have the tedious job of topping and tailing them.
The trick is to place them on a freezer tray for 2 hours immediately after picking them. The bits on the ends break off easily when frozen, and you’ll save about 20 minutes of work per pie. Better yet, you need slightly less sugar in the jam because freezing the berries concentrates their own sugar, in much the way cryoextraction is used to make sweet ice wines.
A word of caution: don’t refreeze! Use them right after topping and tailing.