Hawthorn Berry Chutney with Thyme
Updated: Jun 11
I was always told as a child that all red berries were poisonous.. Potentially a life saving lesson for a very curious child who was always in the outdoors. However, I think this lesson may have been the trigger for me to learn about Wild Food and now I know that the Hawthorn or Haw berry is actually very edible indeed it pairs brilliantly with meat and cheeses, especially in the form of a chutney!
Hawthorn Berrys Culinary Uses
Hawthorn berries are not commonly used in culinary practices in many Western cuisines. However, in some cultures, particularly in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe, hawthorn berries are used in culinary preparations including:
Jams and jellies: Hawthorn berries can be used to make jams, jellies, and preserves. The berries are cooked down with sugar to create a sweet and tangy spread that can be enjoyed on bread or used as a topping for desserts.
Beverages: Hawthorn berries can be used to make herbal teas, infusions, and beverages. They can be steeped in hot water alone or combined with other herbs and spices for added flavor.
Traditional dishes: In some traditional dishes, hawthorn berries are used as an ingredient. For instance, in Chinese cuisine, hawthorn berries may be added to soups, stews, or used as a souring agent in certain meat dishes.
Hawthorn berries have a tart and slightly sour taste, so they are often combined with sweeteners or other ingredients to balance the flavour.
Hawthorn Berry Chutney
The use of hawthorn berries in chutney evolved in regions where these berries were readily available. In some parts of Asia and Eastern Europe, hawthorn berries have been used in culinary preparations due to their slightly sour and tangy taste. Incorporating hawthorn berries into chutney recipes added a unique flavour profile and tartness to the condiment.
Over time, variations of hawthorn chutney have been developed with the addition of other ingredients such as spices, herbs, sugar, or vinegar to balance the flavours and enhance the overall taste. Hawthorn chutney, like other chutneys, likely spread through cultural exchange and migration, becoming a regional specialty in areas where hawthorn berries are abundant.
Today, hawthorn chutney is still enjoyed in certain cuisines or in households where hawthorn berries are commonly used. Particulalry where foraging and the use of wild ingredients is on the increase, like here in the UK.
So below is my version of this delicious and unque chutney, hawthorn berry chutney flavoured with one of my favourite herbs, thyme.
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Hawthorn Berry Chutney with Thyme Recipe
2kg of hawthorn berries
1 litre of cider vinegar
650g of brown sugar
2 Tsp ground ginger
1 Tsp ground nutmeg
½ Tsp ground cloves
½ Tsp ground allspice berries
2 Tsp Maldon salt
From the Garden:
Small handful of thyme
Firstly we need to separate those Haw fruits from their stalks, you’ll need to spend a little time making sure that the stalk is removed from each berry. When completed give them a good wash and then place in a large saucepan. Now add the cider vinegar and salt to the pan and bring to the boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to a simmer and cover, we will need to cook the haw berries for one hour to really cook them and release all of those fantastic and complex flavours. Once the mix has cooked for one hour you will need to pass it through a metal sieve. We want to keep only the preserve that passes through the sieve, so using the back of a spoon rub the mix into a clean saucepan ready for another volley of cooking.
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The remaining mix would have dramatically reduced and there should be 2 pints of pulp ready for the next stage.
Remove the leaves off of your thyme whilst reserving four whole sprigs (pick young sprigs to be reserved). Lightly chop your plucked leaves.
In the new saucepan containing the Hawthorn berry pulp now add the spices, sugar and a really generous grinding of black pepper and cook for 10 minutes. One minute before the hawthorn berry chutney is ready add and stir in the thyme leaves.
Now simply decant the Hawthorn berry chutney into the sterilised jars carefully placing a sprig of thyme in each (watch those fingers, the chutney is hot!). Do up the lids and allow too mature for at least one month (it will last ages)!
Enjoy with hot and cold meats and ripe strong flavoured cheese!
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