September fruits

What happened to the summer? The weird wet weather has played havoc with certain fruit and nut crops this year. In fact if any of us were actually dependent on the wild or home grown harvest we would most likely be in a famine situation by now.

There has been a major failure of the apple crop round here. With the exception a few varieties of either early or late flowering types all the feral and garden apple, pear and crab apple trees I know of have no crop at all. There are also no hazel nuts, no acorns and no beech nuts to be had. And until a few days ago I had not seen any soles at all either.

Despite this the hawthorn berries and rose hips seem to be doing OK. There are few things you can do with Haw berries including adding to mixed jams and jellies. I am experimenting with a haw brandy recipe (see picture) – basically like sloe gin but, you guessed it, with haws and brandy. But for me one of the best uses is to make Haw ketchup. The recipe below is base on one from the River Cottage preserves book which I have adapted to perk it up a bit.

I tend to double these quantities produce 4 or 5 jars of ketchup

500g haws
300ml white wine or cider vinegar
170g sugar
half teaspoon salt
Medium red onion
2 or more cloves garlic
dried or fresh red chilli to taste
Ground black pepper

Method: strip haws from their stalks. Simmer in vinegar and 300ml of water until soft, split, and turned a dark reddish brown. Rub through a sieve to remove stones and skins (hard work this bit).

In the meantime fry the sliced onion (and chilli if using) in oil until deep golden brown and beginning to caramelize. Add the minced garlic and cook for a few minutes more and the mash, mince or purée the result.

Return the sieved haw pulp to a clean pan. Add the sugar and heat gently until dissolved. Add onion mixture, bring to the boil and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and pour into sterilised jars and seal. Will last twelve months, although more likely will be gone before then!.

As I said the rose hips are also looking good this year (interestingly the hips and the haws like apples are all members of the rose family, but the apples failed). Rose hip syrup is an old favourite which kept many young people in good health and pocket money during the second world war and into the 50s. School children were paid 3 pence a pound for vitamin C rich wild rose hips when the war and rationing interrupted the imports of citrus fruit.

Another experiment I want to try is rose hip vodka. I don’t have any recipes for this yet but think it has to be worth a try. And just think of the health benefits!

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