Sloe Food Autumn Harvests

Deep into November whats left to forage in the Sheffield area?  Well there will be certainly some later season fungi like Jelly Ear Fungus or maybe Velvet Tough Shank.  However, easier and safer to identify are fruits such as sloe berries from the blackthorn bush and haw berries from the, well hawthorn .  

Sloes with a lovely early Autumn bloom

Sloes with a lovely early Autumn bloom

The Sloe, Prunus spinosa or Blackthorn (the latter name giving a clue to the ferocious spikes on it branches) produces some of the earliest lovely flowers in spring and traditionally people would nibble on some as a welcome sign of new life and new seasons.  We have written about sloes before used as part of a hedgerow jelly and in the ubiqutious sloe gin.

 

Common hawthorn, Crategus monogyna, is a native bush/tree which has been used in hedging and woodland coppice for centuries.  The flowers in the spring are white or occasionally pink and give super displays, a local name has been the May tree associating hawthorn with May day festivals.  The berries known as haws are at first rather unpromising with only a little flesh over a largish single seed (or two seeds in the related Midland hawthorn, Crategus laevigata).  However, this late in the year having been allowed to fully ripen they are sweetish and although you may be racing the birds to pick them it is well worth it for this hawthorn ketchup recipe.  There are many other varieites of hawthorn occuring throughout the world.  Last year we planted Crategus arnoldiana a native apparently of Azerbaijan (perhaps one of the only things that grows there) which promises much larger fruit.  Hopefully we will get some fruit next year the tree having established itself during this year.

I picked just 300g and used this recipe to make a simple ketchup/dipping sauce:

300g hawthorn berries washed
240g cider or white wine vinegar
100g sugar
salt and pepper

The method could not be simpler - boil all the ingredients together for 15-20 minutes taking care not to lose too much liquid (a lid on the pan helps).  I then crushed the remaining unbroken berries with a potato masher and pushed through a fine sieve to get as much of the ouree out as possible.  Bottling in sterilised jars (pop in the oven for a few minutes to get the temperature to 80 degrees plus) the hawthorn ketchuo will keep for a number of months in the fridge.   The result was a lovely tangy and rich sauce, a little tanic but most enjoyable.