This is an old wives tale that says if the Hawthorn bushes have a lot of red haws (berries), you should expect a bad winter. Let’s hope this is just a tale, as the Hawthorn trees are bursting with red this year! Its hard to miss that brilliant red colour that is filling our hedgerows at the moment, so I decided to collect a basket full and make myself some Hawthorn Ketchup!
The Hawthorn Tree
This is a very common tree in the UK, and is normally found in hedgerows, or along edges of woodlands. It is very easy to identify with its bright red haws which are present on the trees from late summer, until sometimes late November.
The haws, which look like a berry, are actually called pomes as they contain stones. These stones make the haws a little tricky to eat, so although edible, don’t tend to be eaten unprocessed as they are a bit too much hard work. However, we’re you in a survival situation, haws would be a source of food that you could tap into.
Even when the haws are not in season, the hawthorn tree is an easy tree to identify. It has very small leaves that are deeply divided by many lobes. These leaves, when young and fresh during the spring, are also edible and go very well in a salad.
This year, along with many other plant species, the haws have come quite early. It was not difficult to fill a bag and head home to whip up some hawthorn ketchup. This was such an easy recipe that only requires 4 ingredients!
Firstly, you can collect as many Haws as you desire, as the recipe can easily be adjusted. Pick the haws when they are bright red. If you pick the slightly older, darker red berries your ketchup may taste a little bitter.
The most time-consuming part, is step 1, processing the Haws. You need to remove all the haws from the tiny stalks. Once this is done, give them a quick wash with cold water and you are ready to cook.
Add 150ml of vinegar (you can use any vinegar – I used brown malt vinegar), with 200ml of water and 300g of haws to a pan and bring to a simmer. This is can be used as a ratio, so just adjust for the weight of haws you have collected. You need to simmer the berries until they are soft and have become a pulpy texture. This took around 30 minutes. I added a little more water during the simmering process when the berries began to stick to the bottom of the pan. You can’t really overcook these berries, so just keep simmering until you get a good texture.
Next, using a fine mesh sieve, push the pulp through the sieve removing the stones and skin from the sauce. The consistency should look and feel like ketchup now. If it seems a bit watery add back to pan and simmer off some more of the water. Keep moving the contents around in the sieve, pushing as much pulp out as possible.
Now add the sauce back to the pan and add approximately 100g of sugar and ½ a teaspoon of salt (this can be adjusted to individual taste). Bring to a simmer until all the sugar is dissolved.
And there you have it! Freshly made, foraged ketchup. I think this has a slightly more jam or chutney like taste than ketchup and is delicious in a sandwich with cheese. However, it can also be enjoyed with chips, or sausages or in a wholesome veggie burger!
A sweet, fruity sauce that goes well with cheese, chips and burgers.