Saturday, 19 March 2016

Haws ... Cheaper in the Country

Hawthorn Berry (Crateagus monogyna)

Hawthorn berries
Hawthorn are abundant in the hinterland and highlands around my coastal idyll. Our frequent trips up to the Capital Territory have proved that our colonials loved their hedgerows and culturally familiar plantings and their transplants of their familiars to our sun burnt land are oft lost to the culinary traditions of modern Australian cuisine. I had to make many a google trip into the secrets of rural British Isles and European self sufficiency to find adaptable recipes and uses and what fun it was going from roadside forage to table.


Royal Hobart Botanical Gardens
Hawthorn is widely regarded in Europe as a safe and effective treatment and used to promote the health of the circulatory system, treat angina, the early stages of heart disease, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, myocarditis, arteriosclerosis, cardiac arrhythmia, for strengthening blood vessels, vascular insufficiency and blood clots, restoring the heart muscle wall, lowering cholesterol and has been found to strengthen the heart. Hawthorn is used in nervous conditions like insomnia, and in digestive issues like diarrhea and to aid digestion.

Hawthorn in Richmond, Tasmania
Its use in the treatment of hepatitis in modern Chinese medicine is supported by the demonstration of hepatoprotective activity in animal studies

Although generally considered safe hawthorn can cause nausea, stomach upset, fatigue, sweating, headache, dizziness, palpitations, nosebleeds, insomnia and agitation in high doses.

Hawthorne berries are loaded with vitamin C along with lots of the B vitamins which includes vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12.  They additionally include some calcium and a variety of bioflavonoids and antioxidents.


Myths and Symbolism

Hawthorn berries on the left
with their close cousin Rosehip
on the right
Hawthorn bears both Pagan and Christian symbolism, for it is said that the thorn crown of Christ was made of Hawthorn. Biblically it may be claimed that the Holy Spirit has a certain peculiar affinity with thorn trees as the Bible mentions its apparition in the burning bush, which is thought to have been a thorn.

In British Christian mythology it is said that the Glastonbury Hawthorn was derived from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, an uncle of Jesus who brought the grail cup to Britain after the he had died on the cross. His intention was to find a place where the grail could be buried and the new church could be founded. When he arrived in Glastonbury and set eyes on the Holy Isle of Apples he struck his staff into the ground at Wearyall Hill, where it at once burst into flower. Joseph of Arimathea took this as a sign and founded the first Christian Church of England in Glastonbury. Today, various descendents of that original miraculous walking stick have been transplanted as cuttings and decorate various Christian sites around the town. To this day, these special trees flower not once but twice a year. Once at the time when it is right and proper for all Hawthorn trees to burst into flower, in May, and once at Christmas, the purported birthday of Christ.

Hawthorn's symbolism is that of protection, but also as a gateway to this other world of magical beings. Thus, in folk medicine it was primarily used to protect against all manner of evil spirits and demons that were apt to give you a sudden fright. To ward them off, amulets of hawthorn were carved and hung above doors or worn for protection.

The goddess-witches, Nimue, had her great victory over Merlin when she snared him eternally in the thorny branches of a hawthorn.

Like few other trees Hawthorn is also associated with the old Beltain rites of 'fetching the May' into the village to bestow fertility and plenty and to celebrate the return of the green life-force. Hawthorn was deemed particularly suitable since it flowers abundantly from the beginning of May. It seems as if the entire tree is completely covered in blossom, even though the leaves are already out at this time. The white dainty, typical 5-petaled 'rose-type' flowers exude a peculiar smell that is often described as reminiscent of rotting meat, (Hawthorn is fertilized by bugs that are attracted by the smell of carrion) a smell that was long associated with the Black Death. As a result Hawthorn flowers, despite being much loved, were never welcome into the home. Others, however, associate its scent with the perfume of sexuality, which would also fit its orgiastic symbolism as a tree to signify the joys of Beltane celebrations.

Having a hawthorn in your care could gift you with the blessing of the fae or fair folk, but cutting one down could cause you ill luck forever more. It was additionally believed that if one were to hang a sprig of hawthorn in the barn, this would cause cows to give better milk. A hawthorn sprig in the rafters of a home helped to keep ghosts and evil spirits at bay.

In Arabic erotic literature, hawthorn is regarded as an aphrodisiac because the flowers presumably smell like aroused women. The hawthorn was sacred to Hymen or Hymenaeus, the Greek God of the marriage chamber and to the Greek Goddess Maia (Roman Flora). For this reason boughs were long used for luck and protection in Greek and Roman households and were symbolic of hope well into the Christian era.

In Teutonic ritual it was used for funeral pyres because smoke of the hawthorn bore souls into the afterlife. The Hawthorn's association with death gave rise to many frightful superstitions about this tree.


Hawthorn Berry Jelly

Hawthorn Berry Jelly
as part of a cheese plate

1kg haws 
3 cups cider
1.5 cup of water

place all three in a pan and bring to a slow simmer. Mash  the haws every half hour until the mix is very mashed and the liquid has a high red colour.
strain through muslin until it no longer runs then press in a cheese press until every drip has dropped, I left it over night.

3 cups haw concentrate (above) 
1.5 cups raw sugar
juice of 1.5 lemons (I used 2 because they were a bit mean)

silicon molds

Hawthorn Berry Jelly
perfect with blue cheeses
Simmer gently for as many hours as it takes to get the gel to gel in the usual jam method then another hour-ish to get it to be able to be cut.
olive oil spray the molds and pour carefully being careful of sugar burns.

Place in the fridge to set.

Serve with cheeses, cold meats and game.

If you have poultry give them the pressings ... 

Apple, hawberry and rosehip cider

25 litres first ferment
5kg foraged wild apples, juiced pulp retained
1/2 kg hawberries,
juiced pulp retained
1/2 kg rosehips,
juiced pulp retained
2 kg rich brown sugar
10gm champagne yeast

Place all juice and pulp into a large pan and bring to the boil for 15 minutes to kill off wild yeasts. Decant into a fermentation vessel for 30 litres. While the juice and pulp is still hot the brown sugar is stirred in until dissolved. When the mix is room temperature and water added to make up to 25 litres, the yeast is added, the unit sealed and a vapour lock put in the bung. 

The vapour lock will bubble to release gases and this is evidence that fermentation is taking place. Allow the ferment to continue until the bubbles are less than a hour apart.
first decant
2nd ferment

Pour the young cider through a large sieve with muslin liner to catch the wort and as much sediment as possible. return the cider to the fermenting vessel and stir in another 1kg of brown sugar, seal and replace the vapour lock and an added ferment period will follow. When the bubbles again reduce to less than one bubble per hour decant the cider into 5 litre glass carbo

uys with 5 tablespoons of sugar each and bung and vapour lock. Alternatively you can bottle into long necks or stubbies ... 

Chill at least 2 hours prior to drinking an drinking can start in approximately 4 weeks. be warned this is a hard cider and a hydrometer calculation will need to be done to establish the alcohol content. Drinking and driving is not recommended.

Apple, Hawberry and Rosehip cider
Excellent as the cooking liqueur for pulled pork or as an alternative for half the stock in boulengier potatoes.

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