Making hawthorn ketchup

Posted: Friday 16 November 2012
by Kate Bradbury

Yesterday I made hawthorn ketchup. I was pleasantly surprised - it was tangy, rich and fruity, the perfect accompaniment to veggie sausage and chips.

The last remaining hawthorn berry on a bush

Yesterday I made hawthorn ketchup. It was my first attempt at creating such a condiment from the hedgerows, and I left the task a little late - the birds had eaten all but the mankiest of haws and I didn’t have enough to fill the bottle I had prepared for the occasion. Undeterred, I gathered the least shrivelled haws available, still leaving a few for the birds, and made … a small dollop of ketchup. Oh well, I think it’s important to try these things first, before committing to them on a large scale.

Having never eaten a haw before, I was pleasantly surprised by the ketchup. It was tangy, rich and fruity, and was the perfect accompaniment to veggie sausage and chips. I’ll definitely make some again.

The recipe came from the River Cottage Handbook No.2 - Preserves, and can also be found here. It calls for 500g of haws, but if you gather less, you can adjust the quantities of the other ingredients accordingly. I managed to gather only 50g, which was a little disappointing, but I decided to still go ahead.

To make the ketchup you simply rinse the fruits, heat them in a pan with vinegar and water, then push them through a sieve to remove the potentially toxic seeds. Return the sieved fruit pulp and liquid to the pan, add sugar and a little salt and pepper, then heat until the mixture develops a ketchup consistency. It’s very easy to do, but I was extremely grateful it was such a small harvest when it came to pushing the haws through the sieve.

The fruits of our native hawthorn species - the common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) - are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, and have been traditionally used to aid circulation and heart problems. However, don't try eating the fruits if you are taking heart medication. If in any doubt, check with your doctor first.  

Often referred to as berries, the small red fruits are actually pomes. They are fantastic for birds, so it’s important to leave plenty for them to eat too - ideally grow a few plants in your garden. As well as haws, the plant provides food and shelter for hundreds of insect species, including moth caterpillars and aphids, which birds eat in spring and summer. The thorny nature of the plant also makes it ideal for nesting and roosting.

As a garden plant, hawthorn is useful as hedging, because it grows quickly, but it will also form an attractive tree. Its beautiful spring flowers can be made into a tea, but I doubt this would be as tasty as hawthorn ketchup. 

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oldchippy 16/11/2012 at 22:22

Hi Kate do you think this ketchup will catch on,

flowering rose 17/11/2012 at 12:53

well I heard you can use Hawthorn berries but as a ketchup that's novel.Do let me have the recipe.I make a lot of jams and jellies from wild fruit so would be interested to know.

gingercookie 17/11/2012 at 20:27

This sounds great, I used to make 'Rowan-berry' jelly when I lived in Suffolk and in Sussex. The Rowan-berry is also high in anti-oxidants. Rose-hip Jelly is also delicious and very easy, same principle as making a fruit preserve/cheese. Mary Berry's recipes are useful for foragers.

Kate Bradbury 19/11/2012 at 12:38

Thanks for your comments! I think it will catch on oldchipy, why not?

The recipe is here, flowering rose:

Thanks for the tip, gingercookie!


flowering rose 19/11/2012 at 12:47

thankyou kate