Hawthorn is one of our favourite wild foods and is also a beautiful medicine and tonic for the heart. The berries, also known as haws, are ripe & ready to harvest through late March & the month of April. Some say that they taste sweeter after a frost, but if I'd followed that advice in one spot last year, I would have lost the lot to the pukekos!
We gathered these haws (below) up the Esk valley in Hawke's Bay last week and they are just perfect. Thanks to Abby @ Earthly Pearls and her wonderful hawthorn post and recipe for smoky haw sauce we have been able to get the hang of making our own sauce and it's totally worth the effort.
Haws are not something that you can pick in a hurry and since the plants have long thorns, are frequently found on steep hillsides and the fruit is quite small, we find that we come home with a very manageable amount of fruit with each picking.
Firstly, we sit for a few minutes at a time gently pulling off the berries and discarding as many stalks as possible & any leaves.
We both love this therapeutic process.
Next, wash the berries well and drain in a colander.
Put in to a pot that matches the amount of berries that you have and just barely cover with a mix of half water and half good apple cider vinegar.
I like to leave them to soak in the vinegar for an hour or two, or even overnight.
Then, turn on the heat & gently bring them to the boil. Simmer for around half an hour until the colour has gone out of the fruit and they have become soft.
Pour the liquid in to a jug and push the cooked berries through a coarse sieve or colander.
Using a potato masher is quite handy for squishing everything up and then we take turns working the soft stuff through the sieve until all we have left is some fibre and the little stones from inside the fruit or we've had enough- which ever comes first. Adding some of the liquid every now again also helps to get the pulp through to the other side.
Carefully scrape the goodness from the back side of the sieve as best you can & then discard the seeds that remain.
Pop the sieved hawthorn back in to the pot with any left over liquid.
This is not a strict recipe- just a general take it as it comes arrangement so, say to
~ 3 cups of pulp I then add around a cup of raw sugar (or you could use honey)
~ 1/2 tsp of good salt, some ground black pepper
~ 1 large tsp of smoked paprika
~ 1/2 tsp of chipotle powder (don't worry if you don't have any but it really is amazing)
Simmer all these bits and pieces together for perhaps 15- 20 minutes until thick and smooth.
Check the seasonings and balance and add more salt, sugar or spice to taste.
Pour in to sterilised jars or bottles.
No idea if it keeps well as we ate it all before we could find out!
Here is another plain version with measurements: