Prepare for the winter ahead by making the most of the autumn harvest. Hawthorn berries are at their best from September through to October, so now is the time to pick them.
You will need
- One or more 500ml or 1ltr (17 or 34fl oz) jars with lever seals e.g. Kilner or Weck
(it’s crucial that the jars are airtight when closed)
- Sharp scissors
- Muslin, 1m (3ft) squared
- Hawthorn berries, enough to fill your jar(s)
- Gin, enough to fill your jar(s)
- White or golden granulated or caster sugar, about 400g (14oz) for a 1ltr (34fl oz) jar and 200g (9oz) for a 500ml (17fl oz) jar
Hawthorn berries ©Getty
Collect enough haw berries to fill your jar. Wash them and, with a pair of sharp scissors, remove any stalks and dried flowers from the end of each berry. Haws are quite small and can take some time to top and tail, so pop a film or box set on or listen to the radio as you work.
You can now sterilise the jar. If it has a rubber seal, remove it. Set your oven to 140°C/275°F/gas mark 1, wash your jar in hot soapy water, place it upside down on a baking tray and put it in the oven for around 10 minutes, before removing it to cool. Don’t touch the inside of the jar before you make your gin. Boil the rubber seal for 10 minutes in a saucepan of water.
Put a handful of haws into the jar about 3cm deep, then pour in a quarter of the sugar. Add another layer of haws, top with sugar and repeat this process until you have filled the jar. Pour in the gin, seal the jar, then upend carefully a couple of times in case air has become trapped between the berries. Top up with more gin.
Place your gin on a kitchen shelf out of direct sunlight or in a cupboard for 4–6 weeks. After this time, the colour from the berries will have seeped into the gin staining it a beautiful auburn colour.
You can let the haws infuse further but sediment will begin to form at this stage as the berries break down. To avoid this, pour the gin though a muslin-lined funnel into another sterilised, sealable jar. Reseal the jar and discard the haws. You can now enjoy your gin.
Main image ©Emma Mitchell