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Copyright:  Mike Sillett


1. Intro
2. Materials
3. Kitchen Equipment
4. Procedure

photo of some Japanese Knotweed shoots just starting in early April.

1. Intro

I remember the first time I sampled Japanese Knotweed.
What a distinct disappointment.
More so because of all the hype and print about it being a tasty treat and being really easy to find and pick. I had myself all keyed up for a major thrill when and if I finally found and identified it.

When that day arrived one bright and sunny April day I cut off six shoots, approximately 6 to 10 inches long with the leaves just starting to open a bit, and took them home.

When I got home I cleaned the shoots of their young leaves and scrubbed off the surface of the shoots. I steamed the six shoots until soft. Actually, they got REAL soft pretty quick, which was a slight turn off, but I figured, 'that's okay'.
I put them on a plate, added some pads of butter and a dash of salt, and dug in. I was expecting an asparagus experience. NOT.
It tasted like buttered rhubarb. Not pleasant - even for someone like me that likes rhubarb. After two bites I pitched it.
Right after I threw the shoots away I steamed a few leaves the same way and although not as sour they still had the taste as if it was a plant not knowing whether it wanted to be a vegetable or a fruit. I pitched the leaves also.

The Spring went on by ending the season for picking and I forgot about Japanese Knotweed. But I figured, 'that's okay'.

A year or two later I re-read Euell Gibbons' book 'Stalking The Wild Asparagus' and arrived at the chapter about Japanese Knotweed.
I almost skipped it because of past experience with the tasting but luckily I did not.
With the reading of that chapter I actually keyed in to those statements he made about it being very much like rhubarb in taste and that he actually used it more as as a fruit than a vegetable, talking of pie and jelly.
When he mentioned 'jelly' I figured, 'that's okay'.

I made a couple of batches of jelly using different measures of sugar and pectin and settled on this one.

This is a small recipe therefore easy to get through. With it you can make small batches when you have a whim.
It will make from slightly more than 1 pint jar to 3 'half pint' jars.

photo of a 1 pint jar of Japanese Knotweed jelly
A one pint jar of Japanese Knotweed jelly.

With this recipe you can make just a bit and decide if you like Japanese Knotweed Jelly enough to make a bigger batch.

Disclaimer - sort of:
If you have a clean source of Japanese Knotweed ( which can be a problem because people have been trying to eradicate this plant for a long time with many schemes, some including chemicals, and when that failed they dug up the ground and rhizomes and dumped all the remains in the country somewhere ) it can provide an early start to jelly making providing enough to hold you until the strawberries and other berries arrive.
When you do find Japanese Knotweed growing somewhere ask yourself:
Where did it come from?
Is this a suitable harvesting area?
Is it growing in a non-polluted area considering erosion / run-off?

I like Japanese Knotweed jelly but not as much as many other fruit jellies so this 1/2 recipe suits me to the tee.

This recipe is made with the idea that it can be 'doubled', which in jelly making is generally not a good idea, but here the recipe is made for that purpose.

2. Materials

About 20 to 25 shoots ( 12 inches or so ) of Japanese Knotweed. Since we are only going to be getting the juice from the shoots and not be eating them it's okay to have the shoots a bit long.
Remove the leaves from the shoots while picking. No need to bring that stuff home. You do NOT want to have knotweed growing on your property.

2 cups of sugar.
2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
2 1/2 tablespoons of powdered pectin

3. Kitchen Equipment

A couple of large bowls,
A couple of large non-reactive pots, preferably stainless or glass
Three half-pint canning jars with rings and lids,
Couple of wooden stirring spoons or spatulas,
A few teaspoons for doing the spoon 'jell' test,
A mash potato masher,
Muslin bag ( or a piece of sheet or small pillowcase ),
Measuring cups

4. Procedure

Cut up the shoots and place all the sliced pieces in a bowl of warm water. Reach in and mix the lot up a couple of times. Be rough. We are cleaning.
Dump the water and do it again a couple of times.

photo of sliced Japanese Knotweed shoots getting ready for washing.
Slicing and washing the shoots.

Each time you wash / stir-up the sliced pieces more debris will rise from the depths. Just about all of the debris is the membrane material that surrounded the stem where a leaf was attached to the shoot so it's a good idea when cleaning the leaves off, while out in the field, to do your best to get rid of most of this membrane at that time.
About four washings with rough handling will usually be enough to get the vast majority of this litter out of the brew.

photo of Japanese Knotweed shoot slices soaking in warm water.
Washing the sliced shoots in fresh warm water.

Japanese Knotweed cooks up rather quickly. There is not a lot of juice in knotweed hence a large bunch of shoots is needed to start with.
Put the chunks in a pot and add about a 1/2 cup of water. You do not want to start with a lot of water because you will just have to 'cook down' the final juice output longer if you do.

Let it simmer a few minutes and keep checking it. When it gets real soft and mushy start mashing it real good with a potato masher.

It should look something like the picture below.

photo showing cooked japanese knotweed pulp being mashed.
Mashing the pulp as good as possible.

After you have it mashed up about as good as can be done it is time to dump that mix into a muslin sheet draped over a colendar. The colendar is sitting inside a pot to catch the juices that are being forced through the sheet of muslin.

Keep stirring the large spoon. Try stirring with different strokes, try to force what you can through the cloth.

The sheet piece or pillowcase should be wetted and wrung out before use. It filters better when wet.

photo showing the cooked pulp being stirred in a muslin cloth to filter the juice.
A liquidy batch of cooked knotweed shoot pulp being stirred to get the juice to flow through muslin.

Eventually, after stirring enough and forcing the liquid through the cloth the mush will start to have a less liquid appearance. It will probably also be cool enough so that you can bag up the sheet of muslin, lift it up, make it into a ball and twist it progressively to extract more juice.
This next step of forced extraction is okay to do here because we are going to strain / filter the total juice we end up with a second time through a fresh piece of wet muslin.
With the second filtering only gravity and the muslin sheet will do the final filtering.

photo showing the pulp almost devoid of most juice at this point.
The mush is now noticeably 'less juicy' and more solid.

The photo below shows the juice that we had worked hard at by forcing it through the muslin now being allowed to strain / filter on it's own.
This step of filtering will go faster. And it will yield a fine, transluscent liquid.
After a while though you will see the filtering slow down because the muslin material is being clogged by some of the pulp that had previously been forced through.
All you have to do is tilt the colendar a bit in different directions so that the juice has fresh unused muslin areas to filter through.

photo showing the second filtering of the juice.
Second filtering through muslin.

Here is the final juice. Pink. It surprised me too when I first made this jelly.
The juice is now ready for the pot and the next step.

photo of Japanese Knotweed juice.
Fresh Knotweed Juice, strained through muslin and ready for the pot.

Get a 2 cup capacity measuring cup and put in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

photo of 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in a 2 cup capacity measuring cup.
A measuring cup with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice on the bottom.

Then add enough knotweed juice to the lemon juice to reach the 2 cup mark.

photo showing the knotweed juice added to the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to equal 2 cups total.
This measuring cup has a total of 2 cups of juice. Two tablespoons of the total is lemon juice.

Pore the juice mixture in a pot, add the 2 1/2 tablespoons of powdered pectin and simmer until a boil.
Then add the 2 cups of sugar all at once stirring constantly. Lower heat slightly but keep simmering and watch the consistency to see when it gets to the jell point.
You will be close to the 'jell point' already, if not there already. It all depends on how well you did when you started with the first step, that is, whether you 'limited' the water when you started the juicing process.

Put some juice on a teaspoon. Pour off most of it back into the pot and then let the juice in the teaspoon cool a bit. Tilt the spoon to see if the juice is starting to 'sheet off' the spoon. If not, keep checking every minute or so while simmering continues.
When you can see that the little bit of liquid in the teaspoon is starting to drip off slowly, in wide drops, then you are ready to put the juice in jars.

There's also a jell test you can do using alcohol.

Fill HOT jars to within 1/4 inch of top, screw on lids and caps - hand tighten and set into boiling water bath ten minutes.

photo of a boiling water bath.
Boiling water bath.

Here is the finished product - three jelly jars of Japanese Knotweed jelly.

photo of 3 'half-pint' jelly jars of Japanese Knotweed Jelly.
This is approximately the yield.

And on toasted english muffin.

photo showing Japanese Knotweed Jelly on toasted english muffin.
Japanese Knotweed jelly on toasted english muffin.


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