The leaves, blossoms & berries of the hawthorn tree are all edible and have traditionally been used for the heart, circulation and blood pressure. The haws are super red & ripe at the moment, brightening up the hedgerows with their bright berries and though they don't taste of a great deal plucked straight from the tree, mashing them up seems to release their sweet starches and with a bit of kitchen alchemy they transform into a delicious ketchup which is also a great Winter tonic.
Pick over the berries, removing any bits of leaf & chunky stalks, I do this quite roughly as they will be sieved anyway.
Add the vinegar and water and gently simmer until the berries soften and the skins split - 30-45 minutes.
Strain off the vinegar liquid and put to one side.
Put the cooked berries into a sieve and using the back of the spoon work the flesh through, leaving behind any bits of stalk and the hard seed in the middle. I usually find that there is still a lot of flesh left mixed up with the seed so I add the contents of the sieve back into the vinegar mixture, muddle about for a bit, then pass back through the sieve for a second time. If you happen to have a food mill (also called a mouli) this works very well instead of a sieve.
You will need:
1kg Haw Berries
600ml Cider Vinegar
170g Sugar (I use coconut sugar)
Salt & Pepper (1 tsp of each)
Combine the sieved pulp and add the sugar, salt and pepper, gently heating to dissolve. Sometimes, a little later on in the season I find the haws can be quite dry and a little more vinegar and water may need to be added if the pulp mixture is too thick - it should resemble a tomato ketchup. You can also add other spices - ginger and chilli I think work particularly well.
Gently heat to boiling point, stirring the pan to stop the ketchup sticking, then pour into hot sterilised bottles (if you want them to keep for a long time unopened) or into clean bottles and store in the fridge if you are going to use quite quickly.