I sat down to write on how to survival cook, but everyone seems to be doing that these days, so, I’ll tell you what I’ve been up to instead. Yes, I’ve certainly been cooking a lot, but I’ve had fun trying to be somewhat creative at the same time.
I was out walking the other day and noticed the rampant Japanese knotweed along the trail where I was walking. It’s considered a noxious weed in most states, and is just about impossible to get rid of once it becomes established. You often see it along roadsides in six to eight foot high impenetrable thickets.
I decided to find out a bit more about it, especially since it seems to be taking over a large part of this riverside trail. Not being much of a forager at heart, I was quite skeptical when I read that it is edible. A bit more research from several knowledgeable sources let me know that yes, it is edible, in many forms. Happily, it is supposedly quite an immune-booster, so it’s quite welcome right now when we need healthy immune systems.
It can be grilled, sauteed, stewed, kimcheed (is that word?), and my favorite, turned into jelly. I found a jelly recipe that likens the flavor to that of rhubarb, so I decided to try it. I picked several pounds of young stems (they have to be young to be tender), and after removing the leaves, giving them several washings and roughly chopping, I had eight cups to simmer into juice.
Knotweed has green stems with reddish spots, and often the new leaves are reddish tinged. The stems made lovely pink juice that produced a delicate pink jelly. My eight cups of juice made six half-pints of jelly. After it was finished, I stirred a spoonful into plain yogurt and was absolutely thrilled at how delicious it is. I’m hooked – back to the trail to pick some more.
This recipe can be used for jelly from just about any type of fruit (currants, berries, rhubarb, peaches, apples, elderberries, blueberries). Remember, jelly is made from juice, jam has the fruit in it.
Combine 1 part water to two parts fruit. Eight cups of prepared fruit to four cups of water is a good proportion and will give you about three and a half to four cups of juice. Simmer for ten to twenty minutes, mash with a potato masher and then strain the juice in a jelly bag. Let it drip for a couple of hours to retrieve all the juice. Don’t squeeze or the jelly may be cloudy.
To four cups of juice, add the juice of one large lemon and four cups of sugar. Bring to a rolling boil. When you cannot stir down the boil, add one packet of liquid pectin, bring it back to a boil and boil for one minute while stirring constantly.
Turn off the heat and pour into hot, sterilized jars. Seal with canning lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.