There is an old Scottish proverb “Mony haws, Mony snows” meaning that an abundance of haws (hawthorn berries) will bring a severe winter.
It will be interesting to see if this old folk belief pans out this year. I have a suspicion it will.
While on a train to London back in late October, I remember noticing how red the hedgerows looked as we sped along, and the impression they made on me.
The redness came from the Hawthorn trees heavily laden with early Autumn fruits. In some areas, the hedgerows where more red than green!
This year I have been particularly captivated by Hawthorn. I’m putting it down to my visit to Ireland earlier in the year, where I sat in Hawthorn glades, under trees that some locals believed dated back 2000 years.
I’m not too sure that time frame is correct, but I do know that some Hawthorn trees can certainly live to be at least 700 years old.
And so Hawthorn caught my attention.
How was I going to work with this delightful, beautiful and mysterious tree?
If you look in the recipe books, you’ll find most of the offerings are sweet.
Jams, jellies, fruit-cheeses etc. adorn the pages of them. Books that conjure up feelings of bygone days. Of a yesteryear where we mostly lived in closer relationship to Land.
Yet I wanted to do something different with the Haws.
Although I like sweet, it isn’t my primary ‘taste’. For instance I don’t eat sweet food in the morning, and instead savour… well, savoury foods. Even spicy gets in there occasionally.
Muesli with chilli flakes anyone?
So there I was lovingly touching the Haws, when an image drifted through my mind.
“Nah” I thought initially. Immediately dismissing as usual, my intuitive hunches.
Oh, the joys of being such a habituated human being.
Fortunately, I caught myself doing so, and returned to posit that this ‘hawthorn-human’ interaction I was having might be revealing something worthy of paying attention to.
And so I set about crafting a new recipe. I call it Dragon’s Breath Relish because trust me, this is not something you want to eat on your own.
It’s incredibly easy to make but does take a few days for the final results to be revealed.
I like that. Uncomplicated slow food.
With Winter drawing in, and fires being kindled across these Isles, what better nourishment than a dish that will get you all hot and bothered just with one mouthful!
Before I tell you how to make this hawthorn recipe, I do need to bring to your attention…
A Few Hawthorn Safety Guidelines
- Do not eat the hawthorn seeds. They are poisonous as they contain amygdalin, which basically is cyanide bonded with sugar. This turns to hydrogen cyanide in your small intestine. It’s perfectly fine to cook the berries containing the seeds, just don’t eat them. The seeds that is.
- Seek professional medical advice before consuming any part of Hawthorn if you have a cardiac or circulatory disorder, and especially if you take pharmaceutical heart medicine. Traditionally hawthorn is used as a heart remedy.
- Hawthorn can also reduce your blood pressure, so again if this is a problem for you then seek medical advise.
Right, now that my lawyer has stopped whispering annoyingly in my ear about ‘litigious society’, let’s get on to the fun stuff, crafting this blunderbuss of a recipe.
Hawthorn Recipe Relish : Ingredients
- 150g hawthorn berries
- 15tbsp water (basically 1 tbsp per 10g of hawthorn berries)
- ¼ – ½tsp of pink salt or sea salt (the amount depends on your taste-buds… use them!)
- 1 red Thai chilli (thinly sliced)
- 1 green Thai chilli (thinly sliced)
- 4 garlic cloves (chopped)
Hawthorn Recipe Relish : Instructions
- Feel free to improvise with this Hawthorn recipe!
- Put the hawthorn berries into a pestle and mortar along with the water, and pound gently until the flesh has pretty much all come off the stones. Don’t whack the haws because you don’t want to crack/break the stones. You’re just gently pounding to remove the Hawthorn flesh.
- Mash through a conical strainer and gather the hawthorn pulp in a bowl. You can use a regular sieve but I find they don’t last very long if you are doing a lot of this.
- Mix the chillies, garlic and salt well into the hawthorn mash stirring well.
- Place in a loose top fitting jar (a Kilner jar without the rubber seal on is perfect), and put on a shelf in a warm place. I use the shelf in my bathroom, much to the annoyance of my bliss-companion.
- Stir everyday and leave for between 3-5 days. The fermentation isn’t vigorous, and gradually over the days the relish thickens.
- Taste every day to find the optimum flavour you like. The flavours develop over time, and when ready put into little sterilised jars, and place in the fridge.
- I don’t know how long this will keep, but it should last a good few weeks, maybe even a few months.
- Serve on cheese, or with meats. Basically anywhere that you would use a very garlic, and pungent relish. Use your imagination!
I found it pretty delicious to be honest, but I am used to strange flavours and combinations.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.