Hawthorn trees are a common sight along the hedgerow in Britain but who would have thought that the haw berries would make such a delicious sauce. I certainly wouldn’t have but fancied trying out Pam Corbin’s River Cottage Handbook recipe using the peppery little berries from the hawthorn tree on my plot. I decided to make a small batch in case it wasn’t very tasty and adapted the recipe below using 350g of haws which filled two 110g jars. It’s so simple to make and really appeals to my love of cooking with foraged ingredients.
making saucy haw ketchup
300ml white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
ground black pepper to taste
- Strip the haws from the stalks and rinse in cold water.
- Put the haws into a pan with the vinegar and 300ml water and simmer for about 30 minutes. The skins will split revealing the firm yellow flesh. Cook until soft and the berries have become a muted red-brown (I gave mine a helping hand with a potato masher). Remove from the heat.
- Rub the mixture through a sieve to remove the stones and the skins. Return the fruity mixture to a cleaned out pan. Add the sugar and heat gently, stirring until it dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a sterilised bottle and seal with a vinegar proof cap. Use within 12 months. Many of the preserve recipes from the River Cottage Handbook recommend serving with meat but Pam Corbin’s favourite accompaniment for haw ketchup is ‘a really good nut roast with a crisp green salad or drizzled over Welsh rarebit’.
My hawthorn tree always has some bird or other whistling from it’s branches and according to the RSPB hawthorn trees provide food for more than 150 insect varieties. Blackbirds and other thrushes (including redwings and fieldfares), greenfinches, yellowhammers, chaffinches, starlings and many other birds relish the haws in autumn but it’s no surprise to me that there are still so many berries on my tree with thorns like this to protect it! So while the autumn sunshine is holding out stick a plastic bag in your coat pocket in case you spot some of these gorgeous blood red berries. You’ve got a few more weeks to get gathering (maybe more in view of how mild it’s been) and if making ketchup doesn’t float your boat then you can always use them in a hedgerow jelly or make haw brandy. And don’t worry about depriving the birds, they’ve got plenty of berries to feast on out of arms reach.