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Hawthorn Oxymel: A Simple Recipe

Golden Girl Hawthorn fruit, flowers & leaves simmering in vinegar

Fall is a time of condensing and consolidation. You can literally see the warmth and light of summer consolidating into the fruits and vegetables that feed us through the dark winter months.

For decades, fall has meant cavorting with a double hawthorn hedge in the beautiful Snoqualmie Valley where I live. Beginning in September, when the bright red Cratagous monogyna ripens, and extending through late October with the harvest of the black, tart Golden Girl haw, the one who defies botanical identification, my days and weeks are given to the haw harvest.

C. monogyna, English Hawthorn tree in full fruit, The Golden Girl

C. monogyna gets all the attention when it comes to Hawthorn lore, but there are so many hawthorns around the world; the range of possibilities in taste and use is broad. After being introduced to hawthorns in 5 countries, I'm only now beginning to understand what hawthorns are really "good for".

This recipe came about due to my curious nature. I was curious how the same Oxymel recipe would end up using 2 different hawthorn tree's fruit, the English or C. monogyna, hawthorn and the Golden Girl, another tree in my cavorting hedge.

English Hawthorn is a tough tree with beneficial use as food & medicine, but her flavor and texture are on the mealy side. She is the one with mitten-like, indented leaves, bright red fruit and only one seed.

The Golden Girl, on the other hand, is unique, an anomaly among haws, with her fruit's fleshy dark burgundy-black hue, tangy flavor profile and late ripening. When nights begin getting crisp and cold, even the leaves of The Golden Girl step outside the hawthorn box and turn a brilliant yellow, hence the name, The Golden Girl. She has 5 seeds, a pentagyna Crataegus.

This recipe is a tribute to The Golden Girl Hawthorn. An idiosyncratic tree that taught me how to make a rich and flavorful Oxymel. In fact, she has guided my botanical education in many ways over the last two decades. Through our long association and her steadfast guidance, I found myself transformed through the heart. I trust your adventures with nature grow you in wondrous ways, also.

Extracting hawthorn mixture for Oxymel, dried hawthorn from the Snoqualmie Valley, The Golden Girl

Hawthorn Oxymel: Simple, Messy & Fun

1.5 pounds fresh or frozen hawthorn fruit (whatever species you have will work fine).

1.5 pounds vinegar (approximately 3 cups)

1.5 pounds honey (adjust accordingly to preferred sweetness)

1 generous handful of dried Hawthorn flowers & leaves

Put haw fruit, flowers, leaves, and vinegar into a non-reactive pan and bring to a soft boil.

Turn down heat to low simmer, and cook 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Let haw fruit steep in the vinegar over night.

In the morning, bring the mixture to almost a boil, while gently pressing fruit with a potato masher to further break the skins. Turn off heat. Let sit until cool enough to work with your hands.

Strain the mixture through a mesh or muslin bag by hanging until dripping ceases. Gently press remaining juice out. Be careful not to press too hard, you just want the vinegar extract, not pulp.

Put vinegar extract into a non-reactive pan. Add honey. Heat just enough to thoroughly melt the honey.

Bottle and cap with tight fitting lids. Store in a cool cupboard.

Hawthorn Oxymels made with C. monogyna and the Golden Girl hawthorn fruit

Hawthorn Oxymel can be used in salad dressings. Marinades. In fizzy water on the rocks with a twist of orange in summer. As a hot toddy on a cold winter day. Some like it off the spoon. As sipping vinegar. And, yes, one friend even likes it over ice cream! Oxymels, in general, are welcomed herbal gifts

Let me know which hawthorn you find in your foraging forays and how you use your Hawthorn Oxymel.

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