Wild ketchup

All these years in this country – Denmark – I have been passing hawthorn (hvidtjørn) hedgerows, admiring their beautiful snow-like flowering that is a favourite with the bees, and later their bright red berries that the birds feast on. Litlle did I know that the berries were a feast for people too. Recently enlightened by a resident of The Toad’s Garden , I set out the other day to pick haws, Crataegus monogyna or C. laevigata, with the aim of making haw ketchup. I admit I was a little sceptical, the raw fruit is not a peak culinary experience IMO, but my curiosity and love of wild edibles won, and I came home with 2 kilos of fruit.  Half a kilo went into the freezer for later experiments, and 1,5 kilos were cooked up with 5 cloves of garlic, 9 dl. vinegar and 9 dl. of water. After boiling for about half an hour, the fruit was tender enough to be rubbed through a sieve. The pulp was returned to the pot and the pits and stems fed to the compost. I brought the pot to a boil again, and added:

480 g. of sugar

1 tsp. salt

ground black pepper to taste

1/4 tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp hot paprika

I let it simmer while I washed and scalded the jars and lids, poured the boiling ketchup into the hot jars, sealed them and turned them upside down to further the sterilisation of the jars. Two of my store-bought canning jars did not seal, but spattered hot ketchup and had to be emptied back into the pot and re-boiled. After trying several unsatisfactory brands of canning jars this year, I find that I prefer recycled jars from jam, pickles etc… which have those neat “click-lids” that click when you open the jar, and you then know it’s been sealed well. When you use them for canning hot foods, they click down when they cool down. I like the fact that when I open one of these jars again, I can tell by the click that no air has entered it during storage, and even better, no gases from botulism bacteria have developed. Apparently, botulism bacteria can be present yet not develop gases, so botulism paranoia cannot entirely be eliminated… good hygiene in the kitchen is a must!

And while we’re at it with the health issues: haws are reputed to have a stabilising effect on the heart  and heartbeat, but also to increase the effect of heart medicine. So if you have any heart issues, please research this and draw your own conclusions.

So all this resulted in about 2 liters of haw ketchup – thick, yummy and a nice, deep red color. Next time I think I will give it a spin in the blender after sieving, this batch is a little bit grainy from my coarse sieve, it coud be more smooth, but no big deal. I will also be braver with the spices and try some tastier vinegars than the white vinegar I had at hand this time (plus a little apple cider vinegar and some raspberry vinegar, but I didn’t have much left of either of those).

This sauce works well cold, as a ketchup, but I think it will also make a nice sweet n’ sour sauce when warm.


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