Pickled Walnuts – wild harvest part 3

If you have been following closely, you’ll know that we picked a crop of green walnuts from trees growing wild on a local walk. (If you haven’t been following closely, you can always catch up by reading the earlier blogs – click here.)

A green walnut, just picked.

Those of you who felt inspired and who managed to find your own stock of green walnuts – I know, thousands of you – may be interested in this recipe for pickled walnuts. It’s adapted only slightly from a Women’s Institute Book, “Jams, Pickles and Chutneys” by Midge Thomas, the adaptations being forced upon us for reasons of availability more than anything else. Mrs Beeton, Jenny Baker’s “Kettle Broth to Gooseberry Fool” and Jane Grigson’s “Good Things” all carry similar recipes with minor variations in method and spicing; the WI method just happens to be the quickest to prepare. (If you haven’t got a copy of “Good Things”, I’d recommend buying one if you ever come across it. For me, it’s Jane Grigson’s best book, which makes it one of the best cookery books full stop. I can’t think of any English food writers currently working who combine her level of taste, good humour and lightly worn learning. American readers may care to pick up something by John Thorne for a modern day equivalent.)

Anyway, on with the walnuts. You will need:

1 kg green walnuts (more or less, we had about 1.2)

For the brine, 1 litre of water and 100g salt (x 3)

For the spiced vinegar, 1 litre of vinegar (cheap red wine vinegar in our case, in the UK where there is no such thing as cheap wine vinegar of any colour, malt vinegar is the obvious, WI-recommended choice), 250 g of brown sugar, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp black peppercorns, 3 cloves,

Pickling spice mix, which is as follows: 2cm piece of fresh ginger chopped, 1½ tsp black mustard seeds, 1 tsp powdered mace which will end up sticking to the chopped ginger, not to worry, 3 tsp allspice ditto, 2 tsp black peppercorns, 2 tsp coriander seeds, a couple of dried chillis if you want a bit more heat.

First prick your walnuts all over with a fork – 4 or 5 stabs each.

Stabbing our nuts.

Dissolve the salt in the water (a large tupperware container or a kilner jar would be ideal) and add the walnuts. Seal and leave for a day. After 24 hours, throw away the brine and make up a new batch. Add the walnuts and leave for a further day. Repeat once more.

After the third brining the walnuts should be rinsed to remove excess salt and then put on a tray in the sun (UK readers may want to be reminded that the sun is a large object that appears in the sky in other countries). Leave them there until they turn completely black. This is supposed to take 48 hours, but in the south of France took half a day.

After brining but pre-sunbathing

 

Post-sun

Make up your spiced vinegar by dissolving the sugar and salt in the vinegar and then adding the cloves and peppercorns. Tie the pickling spices in a muslin to form a large tea-bag-like infusion and add that too to the vinegar. Bring the whole lot to the boil and let it carry on  boiling for 5-10 minutes. Remove the muslin tea bag.

Pack the walnuts into sterilised preserving jars of some kind (old jam jars etc will work) and pour over the vinegar. This amount should fill roughly 1½ litres worth of containers.

The finished product. Not that you can see much

Seal and leave to mature in a cool, dark place for 6 months.

Now to decide what to do with your pickled walnuts. One or two alongside cured meats, a pork pie or a strong cheddar would be just the ticket (make that jambon cuit, pâté en croûte and comté). But Simon Hopkinson has a rather lovely looking braised brisket with pickled walnuts in “Gammon & Spinach”, so there’s a thought. We just have to wait until February to find out.

Finally, a few more photos from the latest walk in the same valley with more good things to pick:

Sloes. To be picked later in the year to make sloe gin.

 

Plums

And more plums

And now I promise to stop writing about wild food for a while (cheers all round).

Santé

Paul

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