I have left a fair amount of rubber on the road in my time because of a true foragers eye. I drive my family insane by screeching to a halt next to a fertile roadside crop of something wonderful like elder, rosehips and most recently hawthorn. This find was the perfect opportunity to make a stash of hawthorn and apple fruit leathers – a great staple for your pantry through the winter months.
Roadside abundance is particularly pronounced in my new home, Tasmania. Hawthorn was planted as a “living fence” by early settlers. There are still many properties with long rows of hawthorn forming the perimeter of the paddocks. Unfortunately, it has become invasive and run rampant over much terrain. Even so, it is also a very useful plant that has a long and venerable history in herbalism.
I think of my foraging as a public service – removing some fertile potential of these invasive plants ;-)
In herbal medicine hawthorn has a long history of being used in for cardiovascular complaints. Science has studied the flowers and leaf of the plant more rigorously in relation to enhancing cardiovascular health. Hawthorn berries are less studied yet still considered a cardiovascular tonic on the strength of the presence of potent antioxidants.
For this tiny little fruit it has a rather large seed. It is best to avoid the seeds as they are potentially toxic and should be discarded during the cooking process. The berries are also high in pectin and traditionally used in jellies. High pectin fruits are also great for making fruit leathers.
The berries we collected are super ripe as it is early autumn. Under their ruby red skin, they have a creamy flesh, the taste of which is reminiscent of overly ripe apples. The flavour of the hawthorn combines well with apples and since both are in season at the same time it is a marriage made in heaven!
Hawthron fruit leathers are a real labour of love, not only do you have to pick all the berries, you then have to sieve the tiny seeds out during the process!! You can use an oven or a dehydrator for this recipe, a dehydrator will make life easier as there are multiple trays to accommodate the pulp for the leather where you might have to halve the recipe and cook in a couple of batches if you are using an oven.
- 1kg hawthorn berries, washed
- 1 kg of peeled and chopped apples
- A couple of strips of lemon rind
- ½ cup water
- honey or maple syrup
- fresh grated or juiced ginger (optional)
- Cut five pieces of baking paper to fit your dehydrator trays or oven baking trays - you may need more or less depending on the size of your trays and the juiciness of your apples and berries.
- Place hawthorn berries, apples and rind into a cooking pot large enough to accommodate them. Set on a low – medium heat and then adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Stir frequently to ensure all the fruit is cooking and not sticking. If the mixture seems to be drying out and sticking add a little more water. You will have to add a little more water to ensure that the fruit is softening and cooking through. Do not add so much that the fruit is swimming in liquid.
- When the fruit is nice mushy and the liquid almost all absorbed - this may take up to an hour depending on how dry and fibrous your fruit is - you can take it off the heat. The pulp should be the consistency of wallpaper paste!
- Pass the fruit through a sieve fine enough to catch the hawthorn seeds.
- Now is the time to add your sweetener such as honey or maple syrup to taste. You can also add the fresh ginger if you want to use it.
- Using a spatula spread the pulp thinly onto the baking paper, thick enough so that it is not translucent – about 4mm.
- If you are using a dehydrator place the trays inside on about 55˚C. If you are using an oven pop it on very low – about 50˚C. You will need to leave these for several hours until the leather is dry and is able to be peeled from the parchment.
- Leathers can be kept whole or cut into strips and then rolled and stored in an airtight container through the winter months.
- I highly recommend using a dehydrator if you have one. If you are making these in an oven you will have to be inventive about getting enough shelf room, otherwise halve the recipe and cook it in two batches.
- One of my kids finds the taste still a little "savoury", I have made other batches with the addition of a few handfuls of raspberries and blackberries from our stash from summer in the freezer.
Enjoy your Hawthorn and Apple Fruit Leathers!