Hawthorn Ketchup

For some reason this year the hedgerows are bursting full of juicy berries – everything from sloes to rosehips – and I can’t for the life of me figure out why more people aren’t out there picking them.

Hawthorn Ketchup
Hawthorn Ketchup

Think about it this way; if your local supermarket suddenly started giving away strawberries, blueberries and such-like, almost everyone in town would be queuing up for their fill. Now I reckon if they they suddenly filled the fruit and veg section with sloes, hawthorns and rose hips people would just as happily help themselves to those, too.

So why the stigma against picking your own? It seems it’s OK to do only when it’s for strawberries (and even then it’s a paid for exercises), despite the fact that some of these free, wild berries are just as tasty (and in many cases more so) than what is available in the shops.

One of my favourite things I’ve made this year has been this hawthorn ketchup, which I first saw in River Cottage: Preserves. I’ve made it a few times now and have to say that the original recipe had a little much vinegar for my liking which left the sauce with a perfect consistency but rather harsh flavour. I’ve tweaked that for my version, adding a few more spices to boot, leaving something delicious with a passing resemblance to HP Sauce.

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Recipe: Hawthorn Ketchup

Summary: Hawthorn Ketchup is a delicious sauce slightly reminiscent of HP Sauce – spicy, and delicious with meats.


  • 500g Haws (cleaned, stems snipped)
  • 225ml Cider Vinegar
  • 375ml Water
  • 170g Brown Sugar
  • 2 Cloves
  • 1 Star anise
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste


  1. Start by putting the haws, vinegar and water in a pan with the spices and turn on the heat.
  2. Simmer until the haws are soft and have split open.
  3. The next step is to push the berries and liquid through a sieve – this will remove the stones and most of the skin, but will take a while so be patient!
  4. When you have done, add the mixture back to your (clean) pan, bringing to the boil and then stirring in the sugar until dissolved.
  5. Boil for another 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and pour into warm, sterilised bottles.

Quick notes

This sauce is delicious serves along side sausages or a grilled pork chop.


For the original version simply skip the spices, and offset the water amount by increasing the vinegar up to 300ml.

Number of servings (yield): 2


    1. Luckily haws are easily identified and so common…the leaves are really recognisable, too.

  1. I don’t think it’s a stigma thing for some of us – for me it’s just that I wouldn’t know what they look like, what they taste like or what to do with them! (Two of the three now dealt with).

    Mind you, last year when I was picking blackberries, not one, not two but THREE groups of people walked by and commented, not to me but to their companions, to “look, she’s picking blackberries”, in utterly disdainful and shocked voice as though I was some kind of insect. More fool them, the jam, vodka and wine we make from such foraged fruit is wonderful and somehow all the better for being made with free fruit. Perhaps they haven’t stopped to think the blackberries they buy at M&S in their cosy punnets once grew on just such bushes!!!!!

    1. I know!  These people have prejudice against foraging will learn soon enough if this recession lasts!

  2. This looks lovely! I’m just trying chutney out now and I have the ingredients to give this a go too! Hooray! ūüôā

    1. I had some of my Hawthorn Ketchup this week with venison burgers and it was delicious!

  3. What a great idea, it hadn’t occurred to me you could use haws (and I can feel a title coming on “Lord Haw-Haw?!)

    1. Ah, haws are great – and full of pectin, so for next year I can feel all kinds of experiments coming on!

  4. I am sadly missing out on foraging this year due to circumstances surrounding my life, so this recipe Hawthorn Ketchup will have to wait until next year.

  5. Too bad I missed Haws when I lived in the UK. ¬†I don’t even have the slightest idea what they are even with your picture. ¬†Too bad, I love berries too. ¬†Fun to read your post, in any case. ¬†It’s interesting to think about a ketchup from something other than tomatoes!

    1. Well they grow absolutely everywhere at this time of year in roadside hedgerows so they’re pretty difficult to miss.

      Have a good Christmas!

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