Stories from the Barn
A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands
Making Hawthorn Syrup
Hawthorn Syrup, a Winter pick you up.
Homemade hawthorn syrup is Autumn packed into a bottle. Mindful of leaving haws on the trees for the birds, the hawthorn berry syrup benefits us as well. They are beloved by many of our birds, including blackbirds, thrushes, fieldfares and many smaller finches. Watch as these birds swallow the haws whole. However the abundance this year makes me think there are lots to go around. Therefore armed with a bowl off we went gathering the haw berries from the hedgerow. Pick the firm berries when they start to deepen in colour and the leaves are starting to turn an olive green. You will need about a kilogram to make a good amount of hawthorn syrup.
The hawthorn is synonymous with the British countryside. It seems as if every hedgerow is filled with hawthorn. Look out for the twisted stumps amongst the most gnarled of all our hedge trees. The very word ‘hedgerow’ is thought to come from the old name for hawthorn which is Haegthorn. It was one of the most useful trees for hedging as the long thorns kept livestock in and predators out.
The stunning flowers in May give the hawthorn another name, the May tree. It is the only tree to be named after the month in which it blooms. The young leaves are sweet and nutty and so gives rise to another name, the ‘Bread and cheese tree’. As children our granny gave us a slice of bread and dripping to go to school with and gather the fresh hawthorn leaves to make into a sandwich. I don’t suppose many children would do that now.
But this is the tree that just keeps giving and in late Summer the berries appear and looking across a landscape the tree line takes on a rusty brown hue, not an early Autumn, just a super abundance of hawthorn berries.
Anyway, back to the hawthorn syrup.
The syrup is meant to be very good for keeping colds away. However it is important to always check that it is safe for you to take these syrups
A recipe for hawthorn syrup.
Pick about 1Kg of haws, wash them and mash them with a wooden spoon. If you want to retain all that precious vitamin C you need to exclude contact between the haws and any metal implements.
If possible place them in a non metallic pan, pour over 2 litres of boiling water and simmer for about 20 mins. Strain the juice through a muslin bag and discard the mash. Add 450g of sugar, boil and reduce until the mixture becomes syrupy.
Decant into clean, sterilized containers and use by diluting the syrup in equal measure with water. The best way to preserve the syrup is to freeze it in small amounts. Add it to a lemon and honey drink for a cosy heart warming Winter drink. Then you can sit and remember the late Summer sunshine that poured all the energy into the beautiful haw berries.