This is a rich, tangy condiment made from foraged goodies that tastes amazing with sausages, cheese, spring rolls, and I’m sure loads of other stuff that I haven’t thought of putting it with yet. It’s a kind of cross between ketchup and hoisin, but you can decide the consistency by how long you reduce it for. You should know though that it’s a real labour of love, it takes a while to pick enough berries to make a fairly small batch of sauce. But if I didn’t think it was worth the hassle I wouldn’t be sharing the recipe with you.

Haw sauce recipe.

Ingredients

  • 500g of hawthorn berries, aka haws.
  • 300ml cider vinegar.100g of other hedgerow berries – I used a mix of blackberries, sloes, and elderberries.
  • 170g sugar.
  • 300ml water.
  • 1 small brown onion.
  • 2 cloves of garlic.
  • 1 star anise.
  • 2cm grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika.
  • ample salt and pepper
  • a pinch of mugwort (dried and finely chopped)

This recipe is adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “haw- sin sauce” recipe which comes from Pam Corbin originally. 

The berries are ripe from October onwards. The deeply lobed leaves should still be on the trees and are a great way to identify them.

leaf

The fruits can vary from a bright orange red to a deep crimson red and have a kind of little butthole at the end. The trees are often twisted and look windswept or like they have been frozen mid dance, and the branches are thorny. Ask the tree permission before picking her berries and make sure to leave enough for the bugs, birds (blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares, chaffinches, hawfinches, starlings and greenfinches all love the fruit in the UK) and other humans. It will take a long time to pick enough to make a bottle of sauce and as soon as you’ve eaten it you’ll wish you’d made more bottles. 

Method

Put the haws, vinegar and water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Add the other hedgerow berries, ginger, star anise, and smoked paprika. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl through a muslin-lined colander. This is laborious and will require some mashing down but you want to make sure it’s all liquid and no seeds in your bowl.

Peel (do I need to say this? You know you need to peel onions right) and dice one brown onion (if you don’t want to cry, rinse it under cold water for 30 seconds once peeled), and mince 2 cloves of garlic. Saut√© both in some olive oil, and when the onion smells delicious and is kind of translucent you can add in your strained haw liquid and sugar. Add a pinch of dried mugwort, plus salt and pepper to taste.

You need to blend it next, I let mine cool first because I use a handheld blender and can’t be trusted not to burn myself, but you do you. Return to the heat and let it gently bubble for about 5 minutes before pouring into sterilised bottles. 

You can eat it straight away, but it takes on a wonderful umami depth if you let it age for a few months.

Other things you can do with hawthorn.

  • Make a tincture over the course of the year, including the leaves, flowers, and berries.
  • Make a jelly (like a preserve jelly not a wobble one) with the berries.
  • Make wine with the berries.
  • Make mead with the berries and some rosehips.
  • Make a cordial with the berries.

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