haw berry and sloes

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Art by @wattonarts instagram

Haws and Sloes

Both of these are common across Ireland and form a staple in the hedgerows of much of the Irish countryside. Depending on where you are you are more likely to see one more than the other, with the haws (hawthorn) preferring the more acidic soils and the Sloes (blackthorn) preferring a more alkaline soil.

For years I had known that Sloes were used with gin but did not know of any use for the haws. That’s the great thing about being a chef there is always something new, everyday a learning experience, a chance to try new things, create and experiment.

Traditionally haws were used in a variety of ways, including a haw sauce for use with roast dishes, haw tea drunk with the addition of sugar or honey (it needs it these berries are bitter), as well as medicinal uses which some believe helped in the remedy to bladder and kidney stones and a digestive aid and more recently has been linked to heart benefits and general well being.

Haw Tea

Place a handful of the berries into a mug and add boiling water, and leave to infuse for 10/12 minutes. Then remove the berries and drink with sugar or honey.

The Sloes are however have also some medicinal properties when boiled in water until they form a syrup they have been used as a purgative medicine.

The blackthorn can be found along roadsides and in hedgerows around the country and come into fruit around the same time as the haws in the late summer early autumn

Sloe gin

Collect ripe Sloes and wash thoroughly, traditionally each sloe is pricked with a thorn from the blackthorn, but freezing them overnight and defrosting then the next day has the same effect

Place into a wide mouth jar that can be closed tightly half fill with the berries and for every half litre of gin add 100g sugar (add cloves or cinnamon for some added flavour)
Invert daily for 2 weeks then once a week for 12 weeks.
Now it can be decanted into bottles through a fine sieve to ensure sediment and fruit stay separate from the gin.

These can then be turned into a really flavour full jam (so no waste)

Over the coming weeks I will be picking blackberries again see other posts here by @chefnoelk for ideas. (The chutney is really good on its own or on a slice of homemade bread)
Also it’s time for nuts to be appearing on trees soon so keep an eye out for a man climbing a tree with a black tub.

See pictures when I’m doing this on Twitter or Instagram @chefpaulc

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