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Hawthorn Jelly

September 16, 2013

When I was a kid, we had a hawthorn in our backyard that was large enough to qualify for tree status. Though coarse and infinitely prickly, it provided shade for our play, and food and shelter for a variety of birds (my first Great Horned Owl was observed among the branches of that tree).

I was reminded of this tree last week as I watched a flock of migrating robins feed on the brilliant red fruit of the hawthorns in the hedgerow between my farm and the neighbour’s. Last year, this source of food was absent;  a March heat wave followed by a severe frost destroyed the blossoms on most local fruit bearing trees and shrubs. Watching the birds noisily gorge themselves, I wondered if the haws (as the fruits are called) might be made into preserves. In many ways, they resemble crabapples in terms of tartness and texture, a marginal fruit that makes excellent jam and jelly.  A quick online search revealed that yes, hawthorn jelly is a not uncommon homemade edible, especially in the UK where hedgerow fruits are revered for both their taste and their heritage. I decided to give it a try…

Three pounds of haws picked from one tree with, remarkably, no impalement of hands or fingers…

The same three pounds stemmed (a tedious task), washed and placed in a large pot…

After simmering for an hour with an added cup of water, placed in a jelly bag to drip overnight…

The next morning, a decision had to be made. None of the recipes I found agreed on the proportion of sugar needed or whether commercial pectin should be added to augment the natural content in the haws.  In the end, I went on instinct and did a mash-up of a couple of them: equal proportions of juice to sugar, no commercial pectin, but the addition of 1TBS of lemon juice to boost the natural content. After ten minutes of vigorous boiling, the set test was positive. Note: please don’t rely on these directions – pectin content in the haws can vary with hawthorn species, climate and time of picking!

Success: two jars of not too sweet, amber jelly…..

Hawthorn Hedgerow

… with a hint of the hedgerow in them.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2013 11:50 pm

    It looks really pretty. Did it set ok? My friend made some and it was a bit runny…still delicious though. I don’t think your posts have been appearing in my reader…not sure why, though I haven’t been on top of all my reading lately!

  2. November 19, 2013 11:24 pm

    No, everything came together and it set really well – although don’t ask me to try and “replicate the results” as the scientists say! And I’ve been really remiss in posting this fall, so it’s probably my procrastination and not your reader 🙂

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