Autumn has very definitely set in, I know that because I now have cold ankles and am starting to wear boots.  They will come off again sometime in spring… Also, we have been blessed by some beautiful dry, sunny days and that means I’ve been able to get out and do a bit of harvesting.

Where our blooms did not fare well this year, our berries seem to have enjoyed the damp summer. Rowan is looking particularly good and hanging in great, red, juicy clusters. But today it is Hawthorn that I’m after.

Not the first berry you’d think about eating, granted, but I have other cunning uses for this slightly waxy, red jewel. Hawthorn brandy is a lovely way of warming yourself by a Winter Solstice fire and it also serves as a fantastic heart tonic.  A lot of research has been done into Hawthorn and it’s effects on the heart. Herbalists like me use both the flowering tops in the springtime and the berries in winter.  Full of many complex phytochemicals, Hawthorn can lower blood pressure, or raise it, depending on what is required by the body.  It also protects the heart from cardiovascular disease. Sound too good to be true? Many a modern herbalist and hundreds of years of empirical research says otherwise.

But back to the brandy. It’s extremely simple to make. Fill one Kilner jar with:

  • 2/3 hawthorn berries (flatten them slightly under a wide bladed knife to break the skins)
  • 1/3 dark brown sugar (I like Muscovado best, but the darker the better really)
  • 70cl Brandy
  • And add, if you wish the zest of 2 oranges and a stick of cinnamon.
  • Stir daily for 2 weeks then weekly for 2 months and then set aside. Strain before drinking.

This Hawthorn Brandy definitely gets better with age. Traditionally you should keep it until at least Winter Solstice but do try to keep a bottle back for next year. I have one bottle that’s about 5 years old now and it just gets better every year…