Common Hawthorn (Creteagus monogyna) and it’s close cousins are found all around the world, where you’ll often see it being used in hedges and along fence lines in country areas.
It grows as a thick, scrubby shrub with fruits called ‘haws’ which ripen in autumn, and as the name suggests, it has ferocious thorns all over its branches. This is what makes it an excellent hedging solution: even cows baulk at pushing through a thick wall of spiky branches!
A form of this ketchup has been around for centuries, as it’s a simple – if time-consuming – condiment to make with mostly free ingredients, and it really lifts the flavour of basic home cooked meals. But before we begin, it’s worth knowing that this recipe is NOT for the time-poor or impatient cook.
Feral hawthorn fruit is often small, and the flesh-to-seed ratio is low, so the biggest investment in this condiment is the time and effort you’ll use to separate pips from pulp.
A mouli (food mill – pictured below) makes this job much easier on the biceps, but it still takes time, and you’ll likely have to pass the pulp through a couple of times. To add perspective: with a mouli, it took over an hour to pass 1.2kg of fruit through 3 times. It would have taken easily double that if we were just working with a colander or sieve.
This issue is why most hawthorn ketchup recipes you’ll find online are for really small amounts (like, 500g haws = 300-400ml sauce). If you don’t have a mouli, it’s probably worth trying a smaller batch to begin with – maybe half or a third of this recipe – so you don’t get disheartened. Then you can decide at the end whether you feel the effort is worth making this ketchup again.
Makes ~5x 250ml bottles
1.2kg ripe haws *see notes below
750ml cider vinegar
(Optional) warm spices like cinnamon, clove & cardamon
300g brown sugar
4tbsp fish sauce
1tsp paprika (optional)
1. Remove haws from stems. A bit of stem left behind isn’t terrible, so don’t get too precious on this, as the process takes quite a while already.
2. Wash haws well – especially if picked from roadsides. Get rid of any dried or dodgy fruit.
3. Add haws, vinegar, water and whole spices (if using) to a heavy-based pot and simmer until super soft and squishy. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Smush cooked haws and liquid through a mouli, colander or sieve to separate pips from the flesh. You should end up with a mixture the consistency of runny yoghurt.
5. Add pulp mixture to a clean pot. Add sugar, fish sauce, salt & pepper, and paprika (if using). Sterilise some bottles & lids at the same time.
6. Boil, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened. Remember it will thicken further in the bottle as it cools.
7. Working quickly, pour sauce into hot sterilised bottles and seal quickly.
8. Allow to cool, label and store in a cool dark spot. Refrigerate once opened.
* Replace fish sauce with mushroom soy/oyster or dark soy for a vegan option.
* You’ll get more pulp out of haws after a rainy summer, as they will be more plump and juicy. If it’s been a dry summer, you might be better off leaving this sauce for another year, as the yield will be low for all the effort out in.
Permaculture Principle 2: Catch & store energy; 3: Obtain a yield; 6: Produce no waste; 10: Use and value diversity; 11: Use edges and value the marginal.
Check out some of these wild food recipes