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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Fruits of Hubbys Labour

The advantage of living where we live is that there can be an abundance of wild food and many people prepared to tell you their wild food haunts. Since tasting my Father-in-Law's sloe gin at Christmas last year I was determined that this year we would make our own. Well the weather put a stop on that plan as the sloe harvest is really poor this year so had to settle on some other fruits we could forage.

Inspired by Hugh F-W, Hubby set out Ray Mears style to forage for free food. Although there was no sloes he did manage to find the last of the blackberries and a tree heaving in haw berries. Added to the 5kg of apples from Auntie's tree we had a plethora of free food to work with.

A few months back we picked up a copy of River Cottage Handbook: Preserves and today it certainly came into its own!

First to be made was Haw Ketchup. Haws eaten raw are incredibly sour (Hubby can vouch for that!) and you wouldn't expect them to be edible, but with a bit of cooking they can be made into a lovely fruity sour sauce that will be perfect with game. I'm looking forward to trying this with a dish in a couple of weeks.

Haw Ketchup
Makes about 500ml
From River Cottage: Preserves

500g haw berries (Haws), washed
300ml cider vinegar
300ml water
170g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste

1) Simmer the haws in the vinegar and water for around 30 min until the berries are soft.

2) Pass through a sieve to rid of stones and skins.

3) Return the juice to a clean pan, stir in sugar and gently boil for 5 minutes. Pour into a sterilised bottle. Keeps for 12 months.

Next was the turn of flavouring some alcohols. If we weren't going to have sloe gin for this Christmas we could at least have blackberry & apple gin plus some haw brandy. The method for both of these flavoured alcohols is the same, all your doing is changing the ingredients. The longer you leave them to steep the better. Ideally they say you should leave them for a minimum of 8-10 weeks. The tasting at Christmas will tell us if they are really any good.

Blackcurrant & Apple Gin

300g apples (2 large apples)
200g blackcurrants
200g sugar
700ml gin

Haw Brandy
225g haws
110g sugar
300ml brandy

1) Pour alcohol into bottle, followed by fruit then sugar. Give it a good shake until all ingredients are well mixed.

2) For the first week shake the bottle to stop the sugar settling to the bottom. After that shake on a weekly basis and taste after 8 weeks. Once it is ready for drinking filter through some kitchen paper/coffee filter. Enjoy!

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  1. I used to eat Haw Flakes all the time when I was a kid and often wondered what 'haw' was. Now I know!

  2. Liking the sound of the gin.

  3. My haws are in the freezer waiting to be made into the ketchup, as well as some rosehips to make a syrup. Just need some time.

  4. Jules, thanks so much for this. The sloe harvest does look a bit spare this year, but I've noticed that the Hawthorn bushes are heaving with the red berries. I had no idea that they could be used for anything! Rosehips were great this year too, btw, this is the first year I've tried rosehip wine. (There may be some hips left albeit very ripe now.)

  5. Lizzie - I hadn't heard of haws until Hugh F-W mentioned them on River Cottage Autumn last week.

    Beth - you can't beat gin!

    Serena - We totally forgot about rosehips. I imagine it makes a beautiful syrup.

    Peahen - Hubby found the haws very close to where the sloes should have been. Hopefully next year will be a better sloe year. I bet risehip wine is lovely.

  6. Great post Jules I’m learning here about haw berries. Your gin sounds mighty good!

    Rosie x

  7. Does a haw berry taste like a cranberry?

  8. Your preserving looks v domestic goddess! I like the idea of your husband out hunter-gathering - wish we had a some wilderness nearby where I could send mine although I would be scared what he might bring home :-)

  9. Rosie - I'm certainly looking forward to trying it!

    Rhid - I asked Hubby and he said "It does a bit. It has the same dryness that you get with cranberries and it makes your mouth shrink in the same way". As an unprocessed fruit they are not as edible as cranberries.

    Johanna - I worry as to what Hubby brings home sometimes!

  10. Nothing can beat free food. Like you I was disappointed to find that there were no sloe berries to be had this year, as I had my heart set on making sloe gin, too. My dad was cleverer (or is it more clever?) than me and still had some frozen ones from last autumn to make another batch. Well, if I behave like a good daughter he might let me have some. ;)

  11. Sylvie - If I find lots of sloes next year I'll have to remember to freeze some. This year I'll be 'borrowing' some of my father-in-law's damson gin he made last year.

  12. Mmmmmm....gin!!!! Sounds lovely! x

  13. Victoria Plum - you can't beat gin!


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