A popular sauce among foragers and one of the best ways to use hawthorn berries. It has a rich, fruity, almost smoky flavour, along the lines of a barbecue sauce.
- 500g hawthorn berries
- 350ml cider vinegar
- 350ml water
- 150g soft brown sugar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or dried mixed herbs, or to taste (optional)
- Pick over the hawthorn berries, removing the stems and discarding any berries that are damaged, mouldy or shrivelled. Rinse and drain them, then put them into a large pan with the water and vinegar and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the skins have split and the flesh of the berries is soft.
- The laborious part of the recipe comes next: work the contents of the pan through a sieve set over a bowl, using a spoon to push as much pulp as you can through the mesh – or even better, use a mouli*. The more pulp you extract, the thicker and more flavoursome the ketchup will be. (You can use the residue of skins and stones to make a flavoured liquor, see below).
- Return the pulp to the rinsed pan. Add the sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and the cayenne or herbs (if using). Bring to the boil, stirring gently to ensure the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and simmer the liquid to your preferred thickness – you’re aiming for a consistency similar to ketchup. Depending on how much pulp you’ve managed to extract, this will take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.
- Pour into sterilized bottles or jars, and leave for at least a month before eating – the flavour will deepen and grow richer. Unopened, the ketchup should last for several months, but once opened store the bottle in the fridge.
After you’ve sieved the cooked berries in step 2, you’ll be left with a mass of skins, stones and residual fruit pulp. You can make a flavoured liquor, excellent for use in marinades and stews, by boiling these up with 250ml cider vinegar and 250ml water, and any herbs and spices you fancy (do not add salt at this stage). Simmer for 10 minutes and pass through a sieve. Simmer the strained liquid to thicken to a light syrup, and season with salt to taste before bottling.
• A mouli is a hand-cranked food mill, which simultaneously purées and strains as you rotate the handle. It’s an excellent bit of kit for anyone intending to process large quantities of seeded fruit in the making of ketchups, jellies, cheeses, curds and the like. As well making short work of removing pips and fibrous matter, a mouli is much more effective at extracting every last drop of pulp than by spoon and sieve alone.
Recipe by Wild Food UK; photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK