There are many varieties of mayhaws. Some are sweet, but some are not. They grow wild throughout the southern United States, from east Texas to Florida, often in large stands of small trees sporting respectful thorns up to three inches long. The actual species is the Crataegus aestivalis (May hawthorn), a member of the rose family and related to the apple.
The fruit resembles a crab apple, is usually red or pink (although both yellow and orange ripe fruit are known), and is usually one-half to one inch in diameter. While most hawthorns ripen in the fall of the year, mayhaws usually ripen in May (thus the name). Pick the fruit only when ripe. Premature mayhaws are astringent and unsuitable for jelly or wine.
If possible, spread canvas or another material under the tree and shake it vigorously. Despite the extended time it takes to make and age this wine, mayhaw is generally an excellent wine, well worth the effort. The recipe is for a gallon of wine, but if the mayhaws are available, it is best to make larger batches.
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