You may have noticed a superabundance of haw berries this year – the hedgerows round our way are positively bursting with them, brought on by a wet spring and half-decent summer (followed by a crap August and a warm, tomato-splitting September*.)
We tend to shy away from the blossoming hawthorn bush in springtime, fearful of it’s renowned association with witchcraft and other devilry,** but the crops of late summer berries hold no fear for us.
But what to do with these bountiful hedgerow gifts? We can’t have this crimson tide going to waste on the local wildlife population now, can we?
Lets do some booze…
Fight off any blackbirds present and pick the berries before they turn mushy. You can eat these straight off the bush if you like, but be prepared for chronic gut-ache as, although they are perfectly safe to eat straight from the bush***, some haw varieties are really quite sour. Best let them infuse in strong spirits, we say. You’ll need around 500g of berries, so get to work.
Rid the berries of any unsightly insects, then either prick the berries with a fork if you are feeling that way inclined, or shove them in the freezer for a couple of hours to crack the skins.
Pour the berries into a Kilner jar or similar, and add 70cl of brandy and 225g of sugar.
Shake the jar (remembering to close the lid first), then store in a cool, dark place.
Leave for three months, shaking daily for the first week, then weekly for the time remaining.
After three months, filter through a muslin cloth into clean, sterilised bottles before unleashing your wonderful hawberry brandy on house guests, whether they like it or not.
Fancy making some Haw Jelly? Scoot over to our pal Andy Hamiltons’ website here and feast your eyes upon his recipe. Just the thing for tarting up a limp ham sandwich.
Hugh FW makes a cracking ‘Haw-sin’ sauce out of his foraged bounty. You can find it on the River Cottage website here, or if you are feeling flush, grab a copy of his splendid ‘Fruit’ book where the recipe can be found in all its glossy glory.
* Not a euphemism. Fluctuations in temperature like this causes late cropping tomatoes to split.
** Bringing hawthorn blossom into the house is considered by many superstitious types to invite death and illness upon the family.
*** Warning! Make sure you can positively identify a haw before eating… Two Thirsty Gardeners cannot be held responsible for any nasty gastric side-effects from imbibing random red berries.