Foraging Hawthorn & Cordial Recipe
Hawthorn fruit is piling up under the trees here in Brooklyn. Gather it soon, because this abundant fruit is one of the last of the foraging season. It aids digestion, as well as having a reputation as a tonic for the heart, so feel free to enjoy this tasty…um, I mean medicinal…cordial after a meal.
Look for hawthorn on open hillsides, pastures, and near streams. It likes to grow in full or partial sunlight. Landscapers have planted hawthorn trees in many city and suburban parks.
Hawthorn trees are fairly small, growing between 10 and 30 feet tall. Their leaves are always alternate with toothed margins, but the shape can vary from species to species. Some are lobed, others almost oval.
The flat clusters of white to pale pink flowers bloom in mid to late spring. They look a bit like apple or cherry blossoms. Each flower has five petals.
The fruits, which are the part you’re going to harvest, look something like crabapples hanging in sparse clusters. They are usually red, but sometimes closer to burgundy. Unlike crabapples and other apples, which always have five seeds arranged in a pentacle pattern, the number of seeds in hawthorn fruit can vary from one to five.
The other thing that will help you distinguish a hawthorn tree or shrub from an apple tree at a glance is the thorns. These can be two inches long and sharp.
Hawthorn Cordial Recipe
Hawthorn cordial mellows with time in the bottle. A batch started when the fruits start to drop in late September or early October (in most temperate regions) will be ready to sip by the winter solstice.
3 cups hawthorn fruit, stems removed
1 pint good quality brandy or vodka (doesn’t have to break the bank, but should be something you’d enjoy drinking on its own)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2-inch strip of orange peel, zest only (use a vegetable peeler to remove just the orange part, leaving the bitter white pith behind)
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole allspice
1 whole clove
- Lightly smash each hawthorn fruit by tapping it with a hammer or the bottom of a sturdy bottle. Put the hawthorn into a clean glass jar. Cover it with the brandy. Cover the jar and store it away from direct light at room temperature for one month.
- Put the water, sugar, lemon juice, orange zest, and spices into a small pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat. Stir a bit more if the sugar isn’t completely dissolved. Cover the pot and let the spiced simple syrup within it cool to room temperature.
- Strain the hawthorn tincture through a double layer of cheesecloth, or a paper or cloth coffee filter. Strain the spiced syrup into the hawthorn cordial. Bottle, and age for at least one month before sampling. Be sure to store the cordial away from direct light or heat. If it’s at all cloudy when you’re ready to serve it, you can strain it through cheesecloth again, being careful to leave behind any sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Cheers!
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The Forager’s Feast: How to Identify, Gather, and Prepare Wild Edibles is available for preorder! Part field guide covering 50 plants with a widespread distribution, part cookbook for turning these “weeds” into delectable dishes, the book will be in your mailbox before the foraging season begins in Spring 2016!