Hawthorn Guajillo Chile Sauce

A few weeks ago, my friend Kate, of the 365 Kitchen, mentioned that she had searched my site for hawthorn berries, and hadn't found any posts.  This was rather surprising to me, since I like to cook with them every year.  I guess I've been making entries in this blog long enough now that I'm forgetting what all I've written about.

It's a shame that I haven't mentioned hawthorn berries before because they are a wonderful food.  Hawthorn shrubs are most easily identified, not by their simple leaves which are frequently lobes and serrated, but by the long thorns that adorn their branches (and also, their flowers that reek of corpses in the springtime).  Being a relative of apples and roses, hawthorn berries bear a strong resemblance to crab apples.

Some people describe hawthorn fruit as being mealy and tasteless, but I disagree.  I have found that there is a great amount of variation from one hawthorn shrub to the next, so part of the trick is in finding a tasty one.  And like many of the fruit to which it is related, hawthorn becomes more flavorful after having taken a frost or two.  When sweetened by frost, hawthorn fruit taste like a combination of crab apple and rosehips, possessing a rich floral fruitiness.

If you are interested in herbal medicine, you'll be fascinated to know that hawthorn berries are also excellent medicine for the heart.  To learn more, read Hawthorn -Faery Guardian of your Heart by herbalist Darcey Blue, and Hawthorne for This Little Heart of Mine by herbalist Rosalee de la Foret.

If you've found a yummy hawthorn shrub, you can use its fruit from the time they ripen, through the frosts, and up until they fall off the branches.  I'll admit that I take a certain measure of joy in using the shriveled fruit of December, and making something delicious of them.

In this sauce, the earthy sweetness of the hawthorn berries pairs beautifully with the fruity heat of guajillo chiles, and is brightened by roasted garlic, allspice, and citrus.  The drooling carnivore in me says that this sauce is perfect with meat - either as part of a braise, or as a bbq sauce.  Most recently, I used it with deer tongue in tacos, and it was finger-lickin' good!

Hawthorn Guajillo Chile Sauce

1 c. hawthorn berries
1 dried guajillo chile
6 dried ditch plums (or 2 Tbsp. raisins)
3-6 cloves garlic
1 tsp. dried monarda fistulosa (or other green herb such as thyme)
3 allspice berries, crushed
1 tsp. orange zest
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp. salt
(multiply recipe as needed)

You can stem your hawthorn berries if you really feel the need.  I've found it unnecessary because I run the sauce through the food mill.  But you can do so if you choose.  Do give your hawthorn berries a good sorting, and remove any that look rotten or have too much bird poo or other weirdness on them.  Then give them a good wash in cool water.

Stem and de-seed your guajillo chile (save the seeds and add them to your pepper flake jar).  Tear the chile open so that it is in one flat piece.  It should be supple, like a piece of fruit leather.

Heat a small dry cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Place the cloves of garlic in the pan, unpeeled, and let them sit there until soft (it is ok if their paper turns black).  When the garlic is soft, place the guajillo chile into the still-dry skillet, pressing it flat with a spatula, for about ten seconds on each side.  It should turn slightly bubbly brown and stiff, and become quite fragrant.

Place the hawthorn berries, dried plums, garlic, toasted chile, allspice, and dried monarda fistulosa into a saucepan.  Add water until it is about 3/4" above the level of the ingredients.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, and let the mixture bubble for 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat, and let the whole pan come to room temperature.  This gives all of the fruit time to become rehydrated.

Pass the contents of the pan through a food mill (or press through a sieve).  The skins, seeds, and other tough bits will be strained out, and you will be left with a smooth puree of seasoned fruit.

Stir the orange zest, orange and lime juice, and salt into the puree.  If the sauce looks too thick, you can add a touch more water.  It should have the consistency of barbeque sauce.

I'm sharing this post with Fat Tuesday, and Real Food Wednesday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, and Fight Back Friday.


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