Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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Spoon of hawthorn jam, berries on saucer

I love this sweet, smoothly textured, wild hawthorn fruit jam and it went down a treat with participants on my autumn foraging course too. Read on to recipe!

Haw berries - the fruits of the hawthorn tree (Crataegus monogyna) - have long been used as medicine in the East and West, as well as used as a wild food.

Haw berries on a tree, autumn colours

Their taste is mild and unimpressive when eaten raw off the tree - think soft apple or apple peel. However, once cooked and flavoured these berries can be turned into a delicious jam, with a lovely texture of pureed fruit.

Open jar of haw berry jam

My three favourite recipes for transforming haw berries or 'haws' are; hawthorn berry ketchup, hawthorn and apple fruit leather and this jam which can be spread on bread or used in desserts. Oh, and I also make a punchy, medicinal Hawthorn berry schnapps!

The benefits of eating haws

I've written about the benefits of eating and using hawthorn berries and my personal motivation for using them here - why eat haw berries.

Are all hawthorns edible?

Hawthorns are a large plant family with a variety of different species, all bearing fruit. Each hawthorn produces an edible fruit, though the taste and size can vary a lot.

For example, Chinese hawthorn fruits (Crataegus pinnatifida) have a tart flavour and look like crab apples. While several of the native species in North America look very different to our native Hawthorn tree here in the UK.

Hawthorn berries in the rain on a foraging course

Across the world these fruits are used for jam, jellies, sweet treats and for flavouring alcohol. In This recipe I have created fits nicely into this International theme.

Spoon of hawthorn jam, berries on saucer foraged on a wild food course

Haw Berry and Star Anise Jam Recipe

This is a lovely, thick textured jam, or more like a mildly flavoured dark red fruit puree. It makes a great filling for jam tarts and goes well with cream cheese. I love it plain, though the star anise adds a gorgeous sweetness and added layer to it.

Make one jar (230 g)

Ingredients

  • 250 g (2 cups) haw berries
  • 2 star anise (optional)
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) water
  • 120 g (1 cup) soft brown sugar

Place the haws, star anise and the water in a small pan, bring to the boil, cover and turn down to a low simmer for 15 minutes. Take off the heat. Place a sieve over a large heatproof bowl, the sieve should fit snuggly within it. Pour the haws and liquid into the sieve and using the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the pieces of star anise and mash the fruits through the sieve. Do this for about 10 minutes; enabling as much fruit flesh to be obtained from the haws, leaving the seeds behind in the sieve.

Twig of haw berries with spoonful of haw berry jam from a foraging course

Next, weigh the fruit pulp and add the sugar. There should be about 150- 175 g of pulp and for every 25 g add 20 g of sugar, for example, 150g of fruit pulp will require 120 g of sugar. Place the fruit pulp, sugar in a clean, medium saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 5-10 minutes, or until it reaches jam boiling point. To test if it is thick enough, take a teaspoon of the mixture and place on a clean plate, after a few minutes push the spoon into the edge of the jam, it should wrinkle at the edges when ready. Pour into a clean, sterilised jar until ready to use.

Spoonful of haw berry jam with fresh berries

It's time to share this simple recipe. You'll be amazed how much it tastes like ketchup! I always think it is best to make together, as it takes some effort, though is worth it in the end. Here I share the basic recipe for turning haw berries into ketchup with no tomatoes in sight, then as you scroll down I share a little more about the details of making this great relish and dip.

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyana) is a common tree found in hedgerows and woodland, and it fruits best in full sun. There is lots I can tell you about Hawthorn, though here I am focusing on a single recipe. If you want more, here's my recipe for Hawthorn Berry Fruit Leather or join me on an autumnal wild food foraging course.

Crataegus monogyna made into a relish

 

Hawthorn Berry Ketchup Recipe

Ingredients

(Makes approx. 280ml)

250g haw berries

150ml cider vinegar

150ml water

85g soft brown sugar

couple of pinches of sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Strip the berries from their stalks and wash them. Put into a pan with the vinegar and water, cook over a gentle heat for 30 minutes. Press the pulp through a sieve and return both the pulp and the liquid to the pan with sugar and seasonings. Boil for 10 minutes. Bottle and seal. Great with bangers and mash, dip chips into it, have with meats, bread sticks or invent new ways to enjoy it.

 

A  little more about the process...

When I first made this ketchup it was a communal affair; we were three people de-stalking the berries and plopping them in the pan before we weighed and simmered them. That takes a little time in itself. Next comes the mashing - we took it in turns to energetically mash the fruits through a sieve, knowing that the more we mashed, the thicker the ketchup would be. Thick ketchup was good, we agreed, so 20 minutes rather than 10 minutes, or even 30 minutes felt worth it.

Mashing the berries of Crataegus monogyna to make hawthorn berry ketchup Showing the effort - haw fruit pulp being pushed through a sieve

Every time we needed to take a break from mashing, we'd scrape the oozing haw fruit pulp through the sieve and into the bowl, along with the juices.

Crataegus monogyna pulp and juice for making hawthorn berry ketchup

Here's the resulting, thick juice and pulp before adding sugar (you'll now realise how much sugar is in ketchup!), and salt and pepper and simmering for a final 10 minutes before bottling or storing in a jar. Look at that wonderful colour. This really is a great dip, full of goodness and wild vitality and keeps well for months in the fridge.

Crataegus monogyna

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