Thursday, April 25, 2013

Foraged Japanese Knotweed Fridge Pickles Recipe

When first added to the jar they are very pretty, but unfortunately they loose
their bright green color, and become a dull olive


So I happen to be a pickle-a-holic. My parents tell a variety of stories about my early experiences with pickles; but my favorite is how, at 18 months old, I was such a terror--crying and fussing--that they couldn't go out anywhere. Their favorite restaurant, The Hungry Lion, discovered that if they fed me baby gherkins non-stop, I would shut up, and actually be a pleasant dinner companion. After that, my parent's went there every Friday, and the staff would have a bowl ready-to-go on our table before we were seated.

Knotweed stand, ripe for the picking!
There are knotweed pickle recipes out there, but they tend to be pretty basic--vinegar, knotweed, maybe a spice or two. I tried to get a lot more flavor into my pickles, and I really think it paid off. I made 3 flavors of pickles that I want to share with you: tart & sour, hot & sour, and sweetly exotic. The sweet & exotic were far and away my favorite, and the preferred flavor overall. The knotweed holds up well textually, staying crunchy; and it keeps its slightly tart flavor, albeit somewhat mellowed.

Fridge pickles are pickles that haven't been canned (either by water-bath canning or pressure canning). I don't know if I would try canning the knotweed, since canning involves boiling, and knotweed can get pretty mushy when boiled. These pickles can be stored in the fridge much like any open jar of pickles, for about two weeks--but I seriously doubt you will be able to keep yourself from eating them all in less than half that time!


Japanese knotweed is a tasty edible, but also an invasive species not native to this continent--one that crowds out local plants, threatening their survival. To learn more about how to identify and harvest, please check out my post, here.

Since fridge pickles don't need to go through a canning process, you don't need to use specific canning jars. Any glass jar (glass is non-reactive with vinegar) can be used. Consider recycling pickle jars, marinara jars, etc. Just make sure you store the jar in the fridge consume all the contents within 2 weeks.

Tart & Sour Knotweed Pickles
Pickled stalks, now a dull olive color.
These are the ideal thickness for pickling


Cider vinegar
Garlic cloves
Ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
Mustard seed
Japanese knotweed stalks
Black peppercorns
White peppercorns
Coriander seeds
Kosher salt

Ideally you want your knotweed fairly thick, but still young enough that it doesn't need to be peeled, think about the thickness of your index finger. Pieces thinner than that can get a little mushy when the boiling brine is added. 
  1. Mince the garlic cloves, for a pint-sized jar, I used 2 large cloves of garlic. Place the minced garlic in the bottom of the jar.
  2. Add the mustard seed, coriander, black peppercorns and white peppercorns. For a pint-sized jar, I used about 1 teaspoon of mustard seed, a quarter teaspoon of coriander, and half a teaspoon of each pepper.
  3. Cut the knotweed into pieces to fit inside your jar, with about a 1/4 inch of space above. Add the stalks to the jar, on top of your spices
  4. Thinly slice the ginger. For 1 pint-sized jar I used 3 thin slices of ginger, from a root about 1" in diameter.
  5. Mix 1 part cider vinegar with one part water. The amount you need depends on the size and number of jars. Bring the vinegar/water mix to a boil, and add the ginger slices and a generous dash of kosher salt. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Pour the vinegar/water mixture into your jar, over the knotweed; it's ok if the ginger slices fall in. Try to get complete coverage. Since these are not going to be canned, you don't have to worry about air bubbles so much. 
  7. Seal and allow to come to room temperature before refrigerating. Allow to sit for at least 24 hours before sampling, 48 hours for improved flavor. Store in the fridge, and consume all the contents within 2 weeks.
Look at all that flavor!


Hot & Sour Knotweed Pickles
Based on the tart & sour recipe, these pickles add a bit of heat

Cider vinegar
Garlic cloves
Ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
Mustard seed
Japanese knotweed stalks - harvested as above, for the tart & sour
Black peppercorns
White peppercorns
Coriander seeds
Dried red chilies
Red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
  1. Follow steps 1-2 from the Tart & Sour recipe
  2. Break the chilies into pieces, and add them, and their seeds to the jar. For a pint-size jar I used 2 dried chilies.
  3. Add red pepper flakes, for a pint-sized jar I used about a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
  4. Follow steps 3-7 for the tart & sour pickles from above.

Sweetly Exotic Knotweed Pickles
After curing in the fridge for a day
These pickles are sweeter than the ones above, and use Indian spices to create an entirely new flavor. Of the batches I made, these were my favorite!

Cider vinegar
Sugar
Ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
Star anise
Allspice
Cloves
Green cardamon pods
Kosher salt
Japanese knotweed stalks - harvested as above, for the tart & sour
  1. Add cloves, star anise, cardamon and all spice to your jar. For a pint-sized jar I used 5 cloves, 5 cardamon pods, 4 star anise, and about a teaspoon of allspice.
  2. Cut the knotweed into pieces to fit inside your jar, with about a 1/4 inch of space above. Add the stalks to the jar, on top of your spices
  3. Thinly slice the ginger. For 1 pint-sized jar I used 3 thin slices of ginger, from a root about 1" in diameter.
  4. Mix 1 part cider vinegar with one part water with 1/2 part sugar. The amount you need depends on the size and number of jars. Bring the vinegar/water/sugar mix to a boil, and add the ginger slices and a small dash of kosher salt. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 5 minutes, stir to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved.
  5. Pour the vinegar/water mixture into your jar, over the knotweed; it's ok if the ginger slices fall in. Try to get complete coverage. Since these are not going to be canned, you don't have to worry about air bubbles so much. 
  6. Seal and allow to come to room temperature before refrigerating. Allow to sit for at least 48 hours before sampling, longer for improved flavor. The different spices in this recipe take longer to really come together. Store in the fridge, and consume all the contents within 2 weeks. 

4 comments:

  1. I just made the sweet an exotic ones, and they are indeed DELICIOUS! Thanks for the recipe. Much better than other methods of eating them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry about the delay in getting back to you, I've been simply slammed here!

      I'm so glad you liked it, Japanese knotweed and ramps are the wild edibles I miss most since I moved to Texas. And hen of the woods. Supposedly hen of the woods grow here, but I haven't seen them yet.

      If you have more available, try the Gazpacho recipe too, it was another one of my favorites.

      Delete
  2. I also wanted to mention that I peeled them first. I think they taste better that way, and if some of them are larger shoots and getting fibrous, that can make them still edible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are absolutely right, but I'm lazy, lol! And there was always sooo much growing that it was usually easier for me to just hunt around a bit for thinner stalks then to spend time later peeling. Plus for some reason, I always found it hard to peel them with the hollow stems.I think I applied too much pressure in my stroke, and I would often collapse them. :(

      Delete