Hawthorn berries are everywhere in the UK from late August through to November! Last year, I shared my recipe for homemade hawthorn berry gin – and now I’ve actually been able to taste the finished product, I can confirm that it’s delicious! It tastes like a very fragrant, floral sherry, and it’s awakened my enthusiasm for finding even more hawthorn berry recipes. After all, these haw berries (their other name!) are so readily available in the UK, and unlike some of the more well-known hedgerow fruits like blackberries, they’re not especially popular so you’re not competing with lots of other foragers for the best spots.
So, I’ve done some research and pulled together a rundown of different hawthorn berry recipes that I’ve found online – I’m going to try to pick some haw berries and try them out! There’s so many different recipes and ideas for what you can do with this versatile little berry (hawthorn berries are high in pectin, so good news for jam makers!), I’m amazed that it had never really made it onto my radar before I read about making hawthorn gin earlier this year…
Hawthorn Berry Recipes
Hawthorn Gin (or Hawthorn Vodka) Recipe
This is a great way to transform a bottle of cheap £10 supermarket vodka into a bottle of fancy hawthorn gin you’d pay at least £25 for. Because yes: gin is basically just vodka that’s been flavoured either during or after the distillation process – so hawthorn gin and hawthorn vodka are more or less the same thing!
Here is my recipe for homemade hawthorn berry gin – the recipe that got me interested in using foraged hawthorn berries in the first place. This hawthorn gin recipe is very easy and straightforward to make, and the flavour is delicious – like a fragrant sherry, but with a good boozey hit to it. Of course, once you’ve made a bottle of hawthorn berry gin, it will keep for a fair while, and there’s plenty of different things you can do with it – hawthorn gin fizz, for instance, or hawthorn gin and tonic!
I also found this recipe for spiced hawthorn and rosehip mead, which sounds amazing but is definitely rather more advanced – if you’ve made wine before, this might be right up your street!
Hawthorn Berry Ketchup Recipe
Hawthorn berry ketchup is a haw berry recipe I really want to try with this year’s harvest of hawthorn berries! I found this recipe by Monica Shaw, on the Great British Chefs site, and it sounds really delicious – she describes it as “a nice sweet and sour sauce, with a little bit of a spicy kick thanks to lots of black pepper” and suggests that hawthorn berry ketchup would work well with rich meats like venison and pork belly. The hawthorn ketchup recipe is actually also more straightforward than I would have expected and only needs a few ingredients – double winner!
Hawthorn Berry Tea Recipe
Another way to use your hawthorn berries is to make a tea or herbal infusion. The recipe itself is very simple: take one teaspoonful of hawthorn berries for each cup of tea you want to make, add boiling water, and let the haw berries infuse for 5 – 10 minutes. You can serve the hawthorn berry tea hot, or chill it and serve it iced. If you feel like getting a little bit more creative with your homemade hawthorn infusion, you can add other herbs – lots of recipes suggest adding a cinammon stick and a little sugar or honey to your hawthorn tea. Or if you want to get really wild, this recipe suggests combining your hawthorn berries with hibiscus and lemon peel… mmmm…
Hawthorn Berry Jams and Jellies
Jams and jellies are the foragers friend – pretty much always the most obvious way to use up hedgerow fruit! But that doesn’t mean they’re not great. Check out this recipe for hawthorn berry jam, or this one for hawthorn jelly (yes okay, they’re basically the same thing, but I’m not about to get into the great England vs. America jam vs. jelly debate).
Another lovely easy recipe is hawthorn berry vinegar, which essentially just involves infusing the haw berries into vinegar. It sounds like a great way to create a vinegar for salads and dressings which is a little different than the standard balsamic offerings – plus, new hawthorn leaves and buds are actually edible, so if you save your haw vinegar over the winter you could even use it to dress a hawthorn leaf salad in spring!
Baking with Hawthorn Berries
Can you bake with hawthorn berries? Yes, of course. You can bake with anything! Should you bake with hawthorn berries? Hmm… perhaps harder to answer. I’m not convinced by it as a concept (unless, for instance, you’re perhaps adding a yummy layer of hawthorn jam to a sponge cake – that does sound pretty good). However, I have actually found quite a few recipes out there for anyone looking into baking with haw berries – see this recipe for vegan hawthorn cookies, or this hawthorn cake recipe, or even this one for hawthorn rolls (like fig rolls but with hawthorn berries! Pretty creative but not one I’m likely to try, because fig rolls are the work of the devil). If you’re less into cakes and pastries, but you still want a sweet hawthorny pick-me-up, why not try making this hawthorn berry fruit leather? I’m going to give this a try this year, because it’s probably one of the best ways to really bring out the true flavour of hawthorn berries!
Chinese Hawthorn Berry Recipes
Did you know hawthorns are big in China? That sentence can be read two ways… and both are correct. There is a species of hawthorn native to China (crataegus pinnatifida) which is a popular culinary ingredient… and its fruits are waaaaay bigger than the common hawthorn (crataegus monogyna) which is native to the UK. So big, in fact, that one traditional Chinese hawthorn recipe is these amazing candied tanghulu skewers – think toffee apples, but made with giant hawthorn berries. With our piddly little European haw berries, I don’t think replicating this recipe is particularly practical (not least because the seeds are normally scooped out and replaced with red bean paste), but there are other traditional Chinese hawthorn recipes that you could try out with European haw berries… I’m intrigued by this haw and pork rib soup, or this hawthorn berry congee.
Medicinal Uses of Hawthorn
I feel like it would be lax of me to collate an entire collection of hawthorn recipes without mentioning the fact that hawthorn and haw berries are often used for medicinal purposes. A lot of websites which share haw berry recipes will talk about hawthorn being ‘good for the heart’ or make similar claims that you can use these hawthorn foods and drinks to achieve significant health benefits. Hawthorn is indeed traditionally used as a herbal medicine both in Western tradition and in Chinese traditional medicine.
However, I think it’s worth being wary of claims like this. Some scientific studies have shown that hawthorn has benefits for patients with congestive heart failure – but others have shown no effect, and there’s still comparatively little research into its effect, particularly when prepared as a home remedy in a syrup or tincture. In short; I think it’s best to enjoy hawthorn for its yummy flavour and for the fun you can have foraging and cooking with these tasty little berries, rather than trying to use it to self-medicate. As always, if you’re planning to take anything as a medication – make sure to discuss it with your doctor first.