Hawthorns are one of the last fruits hanging on trees late into the fall. They mature just barely in time for the first frosts up here in Vermont, and hawthorn berries are one of the last summer fruits to can up before winter snows.
Though ‘haws’ grow on trees like apples, they’re actually much more closely related to roses. A homemade hawthorn jelly tastes similar to rosehip jelly, but it has the added benefit of being potent medicine for heart health.
Hawthorn trees are widely planted for their fragrant summer blossoms and showy fall fruits, but they’re also a native wild edible. These are wild foraged hawthorn berries from a tree I found at the edge of our woods. I had originally intended to make a tincture or syrup with them, but that requires significant planning.
A hawthorn tincture is generally made with leaves, flowers, and fruits. The leaves and flowers are harvested in the early spring and steeped in alcohol. The fruits are then harvested late in the fall and cooked into a syrup with honey and water.
The strained hawthorn/honey syrup is then preserved with the strained hawthorn flower tincture. That gives you the benefits of the whole plant in a long-lasting medicine. Next spring I’ll know better, but for now, these beauties are going right into hawthorn jelly.
As I said, Hawthorn trees are in the rose family, and it’s better to think of these tiny fruits, known as haws, as “hawthorn hips” rather than fruits. Each one contains large seeds wrapped in a fibrous fruit-like coating.
Haws are acidic and tart, but quite pleasant if you add enough sugar and make them into a cordial, liqueur, syrup or jelly. A syrup made from the fruit is sold as a herbal supplement for heart irregularity and high blood pressure.
Syrup or jelly, the medicinal uses are the same. All you’re doing is changing the mode of delivery. Hawthorn is used for lowering blood pressure, stabilizing irregular heartbeats and strengthening the heart. It’s also used in combination with relaxing herbs to treat stress and anxiety because it dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.
Perhaps it’s my constitution or the fact that I love to eat tart fruits like cranberries raw, but I actually really like the taste of fresh hawthorns. My toddler seems to have inherited my taste, and he just wouldn’t stop stealing the Hawthorns to eat every time I turned my back.
While I was focusing the camera on the finished hawthorn jelly, he snuck in again to grab yet another hawthorn berry. He’s my tiny foraging buddy, and he helped me harvest these in the first place, so he’s entitled to his share.
Beyond the pure medicinal impacts, hawthorn is prescribed by herbalists for emotional issues related to the heart as well, like grief and heartbreak. I kind of like the idea of drowning my sorrows in a buttery scone topped with hawthorn jelly. Medicinal or not, it seems a bit better than a tub of Ben and Jerries.
Start by putting the hawthorn berries in a pot with just a small amount of water. The berries themselves have a surprising amount of essential oil on their surfaces. Don’t be alarmed if the water looks a tad bit oily at the start.
That’s normal, a bit like the natural citrus oils on the outside of a lemon peel. Turn on the heat and allow the haws to simmer until they’ve completely disintegrated. Help them along a bit with a potato masher, and add water as necessary to keep them from burning.
Once the hawthorns have more or less completely disintegrated after about 30 to 40 minutes of simmering and mashing, strain the whole mixture through a jelly strainer. In the past, I’ve always hacked something together with cheesecloth to make a jelly bag, but I finally bit the bullet and bought a jelly strainer and it’s so much easier. Best $10 I’ve spent on canning supplies yet.
I make a lot of jams and jellies, and it would have been really convenient for the batch of elderberry jelly I just put up. Beyond jellies, I could have really used it when I was making blackcurrant mead too, boy was that a mess when the cheesecloth slipped and everything came tumbling down…
Most jelly recipes tell you to strain the mixture overnight, but I didn’t find that necessary with hawthorn jelly. After about 10 minutes the pulp was completely drained of juice (and color) and the bright hawthorn juice was waiting in the bowl below to be thickened with sugar on the stove.
At this point, measure the juice. It takes about 1.5 pounds of hawthorn berries to make 1 half-pint of hawthorn jelly. That amount of berries should yield roughly 2 cups of juice.
For every 2 cups of juice, add 2 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Hawthorns have pectin in them naturally, so there’s no need to add any extra.
Put the sweetened hawthorn juice back onto the stove and bring the mixture to a boil again. Boil it hard for about 10 minutes until the mixture reaches thickens and begins to gel.
Seasoned canners know what this looks like, but you can test the texture by dropping a tiny bit on a plate that’s been frozen in the freezer. If it gels quickly to the texture you want, then it’s ready.
Pour the hawthorn jelly into canning jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes or store in the refrigerator for immediate use.
Hawthorn jelly is a tasty way to take your medicine and easy to make at home. All you need is hawthorn berries, sugar and lemon juice. No added pectin required. This recipe will work multiplied up to 4x per batch. That means you can make a single batch with as much as 8 pounds of hawthorns. Any more than that and it's safer to make multiple batches. It can be hard to get a jelly to gel properly if the batch size is too large.
Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g
Hawthorn jelly is a tasty way to take your medicine and easy to make at home. All you need is hawthorn berries, sugar and lemon juice. No added pectin required.
This recipe will work multiplied up to 4x per batch. That means you can make a single batch with as much as 8 pounds of hawthorns. Any more than that and it's safer to make multiple batches. It can be hard to get a jelly to gel properly if the batch size is too large.
Thank you, I have 3 hawthorn trees and making jelly is a Lebanese old tradition I want to revive!
You’re quite welcome. And I’m excited to find your site too, we just got a Lebanese cookbook and we’ve loved everything we’ve made from it thus far!
I have a question because we have so many hawthorn trees on our 12 acre property. I tried your recipe and it turned out fabulous but my husband is hesitant on eating it because the seeds contain cyanide. So my question is when you are boiling the hawthorns does that kill the cyanide or does the cyanide leach into the juice extract?
You’ll have to use your own best judgment for this one. If you buy hawthorn for tea, those are not seedless fruits. It is common practice to use them whole (dried or fresh) for both tea and jelly. Apple jelly is also made with the seeds inside. It is impractical to make anything from hawthorn if you remove the seeds, since they take up most of the fruit.
That said, if you’d like to try it next time, freeze the hawthorn fruits to break their cells, then put the whole mass through a food mill (there’s a description of how to do that here in this article on making apple sauce in a food mill). It’ll remove everything (skins and seeds) but the pulp. At that point, you’ll have hawthorn sauce. That’s the only seed freeway I can think of to use them.
I’m pretty sure that as long as you don’t break up the seeds when you’re mashing it, the cyanide should stay trapped inside the seeds?
Can you use a steam juicer and use the juice to make the jelly?
I haven’t tried using a steam juicer for hawthorn jelly, simply because I didn’t have one at that point. I’ve made many jellies with a steam juicer though, and they work fine even when they’re pectin-free recipes. My only thought is that I know steam juicers aren’t the best for juicing apples, and they work better with soft fruits. Given that, they might not be the best for hawthorn. But honestly, I haven’t done it (yet).
Thank you for the recepie but can we put less sugar!!! Its too sweat
I haven’t tried it with less sugar but you are welcome to give it a go and see how it works.
I am about to make hawthorn jelly using your recipe, and I have a question: in your write up, you say to use a small amount of water, but then in the recipe it’s says to use 2-3 cups. Do you mean tablespoons?
Hoping for a reply.
I am sorry if that’s confusing. The 2 to 3 cups is the total amount of water that you would use. You start off by adding a small amount of water and then continue to add water as needed to keep them from burning.
We were out today foraging for more black chokeberries when I found these beauties! I’ve never come across them before, or maybe never noticed? I grabbed them, figuring you’d have something about them on your blog, & I was not disappointed. 🙂 I only foraged about 2 handfuls, but I figure I will freeze them until I find enough to do something with. 🙂 Trying to get out & forage once/week, so odds are we may stumble across some more before the snow flies! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
You’re very welcome. I am so glad you were able to find some. They are great in tea and other recipes as well so even if you only have a small amount you can always have tea. Here is another post on hawthorn that includes several different preparations https://practicalselfreliance.com/hawthorn/ The leaves and the flowers are also very beneficial so be sure to remember where that tree is in the spring.
Mrs Louise Walker
Thank you. I’ll give that a go today.
You’re very welcome.
Mrs Louise Walker
Hi, I’d love to make something great for my old dad to help his heart health. What recipe would you recommend? Thank you (from Scotland where we have lots of Hawthorn trees).
We have a post here for foraging hawthorn which includes some instructions for both a tea and a tincture. I would just be sure to research any contraindications for hawthorn. They are good for the heart but there are some people with certain conditions that shouldn’t take them.
Mrs Louise Walker
Made some hawberry jelly. Oh my goodness it is utterly divine.
Hi, thanks for the recipe. I’m not new to canning, but new to making hawthorn jelly and I found “add just a bit of water” a challenge to decipher. Please consider updating the recipe with an actual amount of water. I really did just add a bit of water (ac=bout 1/4 cup) , and when it wasn’t working for me had to consult other recipes to learn that I needed to add more than just a bit. I really do appreciate your effort in posting this recipe. Thank you!
I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear. You want to add just enough water in the beginning to get them going and then keep adding water as necessary to keep them from scorching so it isn’t really a set measurement.
Good Morning Ashley,
I made this yesterday and added some rose hips. Yet, while it seemed to be thickening in the pot; it is still very runny in the jars. This is even after they have cooled and I have sat the jars in the fridge.
Can I put it all back into a pot and reheat it and/or add anything else to thicken it (without adding pectin)?
How long have they been sitting in the fridge?
I also am having the problem with my jelly not gelling, and it’s been in the fridge a few hours. Should I dump it back in the pot & cook it more?
You can or you can just give it some more time. Many times it will thicken up after time.
Thank you! I ended up returning it to the pot & cooking it more. Since I’m new at this and wasn’t sure how to tell what was enough, I ended up with more of a paste (like a guava paste), which is also wonderful!
generally the cyanide or arsenic that occurs in the seeds of apple and hawthorn will not kill you! In fact it is a Biblically prescribed thing to do , to ” eat the fruit WITH THE SEED.” Recent knowledge of the health benefits of the compounds of arsenic and cyanide mean that experiments are being done to see if these compounds can target cancer cells. THe thinking is that naturally occurring arsenic and cyanide are not lethal in small doses and in fact could aid the body’s fight against cancers. Of course, big pharma wants us to pay more than an apple a day worth of dollars!
E.K. Great comment on the cyanide subject!
I just stumbled onto this website when I was searching about crabapple recipes…. Then found Hawthorne info….. YAY. we have a few Hawthorne trees and have no idea what to do with them. This is the year to try them out. I really loved the the Ben & jerry comment….😍
I have to bookmark this site …. It clearly is a great source of information….. thank you SO much!!
This worked very well, I used a thermometer to 210 degrees when cooking the hawthorn juice. I’m at 5,300 ft in Boulder, Colorado. If I go to 212 my jelly becomes the consistency of Turkish delight. I can in small jars.. 4oz and it is wonderful. My husband has declared it is his new favorite. We eat the jelly with a soft cheese, (brie or camembert) just delicious! Thanks so much!
You’re very welcome. So glad you enjoyed the recipe.
Thanks for the recipe! I do gardening work in our community and there were a few trees full of fruits. The jelly turned out great!!! Next year I will do more.
Thank you! So glad it worked out for you!
Hello, Can i use dried hawthorn berries to make this jelly? If so, should i use the same amount of berries?
Yes, you could do dried berries. You can use less berries since the volume of the dehydrated berries will be less or you could use the same amount and just have a stronger flavor. You will of course need more liquid as well.