Autumn is by far my favourite season. This year I was particularly keen for it to arrive. After an often unpleasantly warm London lockdown (number 1) spent in restaurant kitchens I was ready for the arrival of fresher weather, rain and for the house to feel cosy again as opposed to stuffy and airless. But it wasn’t so much autumn in the city I craved, it was Norfolk. It was autumn with my family.
This is a season of rituals for us, dictated largely by the hedgerows, orchards and fields. Time is not defined by weeks but by what is at its peak: damson, bullace and bramble season give way to crab apple, sloe and hawthown and all eyes are peeled for the arrival of the sweet chestnuts.
I love finding new ways to use what we gather. I have made the obligatory pies, gins and jellies but this year I wanted to find a more savoury use for the glut – there really is only so much jam I can consume. This is the result: a fruity hedgerow ketchup made with crabapple, hawthorn and the last of the brambles that had been lying in wait in the freezer.
It is that winning combination of sweetness and tart, lightly spiced with mustard seeds, fresh ginger and cinnamon. I also stirred in a dried guajillo chilli, left whole to give an earthy smokiness without unleashing any heat.
The beauty of this ketchup is that you could make it with whatever foraged bits you happen to have. Plums, elderberries and sloes would all work well here as would any other autumnal gatherings like apples, pears, quince or even pumpkin.
It works beautifully with burgers, a steak or a pork pie but its ultimate partner in crime is the sausage. Fill a few sterilised bottles with this and promise me that when bonfire night rolls around you’ll roast a big tray of sausages, onions and apples, warm some crusty bread rolls and crack open a bottle of this ketchup. I guarantee you won’t be reaching for the Heinz!
This ketchup is best stored in sterilized jam jars or kilner bottles with vinegar proof lids. To sterilize them wash with hot soapy water and rinse. Arrange on a tray and place in an oven preheated to 160c for 10 minutes. Soak the lids and seals in boiling water for a few minutes. Keep the jars warm in the oven until you need them.
If you don’t have many foraging opportunities this would be delicious made with any mixed berries, tart apples, quince, plums or even pumpkin.
- 1kg of mixed hedgerow finds, washed (crabapple, rowan, elderberries, brambles, sloes or plums)
- 2 small white onions, finely chopped
- 275g sherry vinegar
- 250g light muscovado sugar
- 1 dried whole guajillo chilli (or other mild whole dried chilli)
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 cm ginger sliced into 4
- 2 small cinnamon sticks
- 6 cloves
- 1 star anise
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
Take a piece of muslin and place the spice mix in it, secure with string to make a spice bag. This will make it easier extracting the spices from the ketchup later on.
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan place the fruit, onions, sherry vinegar, salt and spice bag. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 35-45 minutes or until all your fruit is very soft (particularly important if you are using crabapple or quince, it may need longer).
Remove the spice bag and pass the fruit through a seive over a pan. Use the back of a spoon to push the fruit through. Discard any pips or skin left in the seive.
Add the sugar to the fruit. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, and let it boil for around 10 minutes or until the ketchup has thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.
Using a jam funnel or a jug, fill your warm sterilized bottles and seal immediately.
Makes 2x 250ml jars. Use within 12 months.