The Honest Food site tells me ‘There may be few foods that are more English than pickled walnuts’. Apparently they make for wonderful eating when munched along with cheddar cheese and ploughman’s lunches. In Australia pickled walnuts are not a common food – in fact I have never seen or eaten them.
With a glut of walnuts, and on the prompting of a friend, I felt compelled to try pickling. But … alas … I learned that unripe green shelled walnuts are needed. Mine were too far gone. They have dried and aged with the fruits now covered in hard wooden shells.
Not to be deterred, I decided to create a new version of pickled walnuts by removing the fruit from their shells. Then I determined my pickling ingredients would be water, salt, apple cider vinegar, cracked black pepper, allspice, raw sugar, and an inch of fresh ginger.
But what should the process be? In consulting online for green walnut pickling recipes, the fruits were always immersed for a week or even months in brine. I know that when preparing olives, they need to be salted initially with the intention to draw out the bitterness. Well that is what I think is the purpose of that process. Perhaps the green walnuts are bitter without treatment and since I am using ripe sweet walnuts maybe the brining stage is probably not necessary.
I could not find one recipe to pickle ripe walnuts so I am not sure if something tasty can be created. Nevertheless I proceeded. I decided to create two different batches; one that would be soaked for a week or so and one that would be prepared immediately without salting. After cracking a seemingly endless pile of walnuts, I divided them into two bowls.
For one lot I soaked the walnuts in a salt and water mix – and left them in the comparative dark of my laundry to soak for a week and (apparently) to encourage some fermentation. Online I noted the advice that, because this solution will stain your hands for weeks, wearing rubber gloves is essential.
In a week’s time I will strain off the brine solution, and lay the nuts out on a tray in full sun for a couple of days hoping to dry and blacken them (this is part of the process for pickling green walnuts). Then I will boil them in a mix of the pickling ingredients, and seal the contents in jars for storage.
To prepare the second bowl of opened nuts, I heated the vinegar, pepper, allspice, sugar and finely chopped ginger to boiling point before adding the walnuts.
I let the pot simmer for 7 minutes having no idea what I was doing and no scientific way of pursuing this part of the process. Once the stove was off, I poured the hot concoction of walnuts and pickling juice into glass jars leaving very little headspace. Then sealed the jars.
They looked most unattractive. The ‘water’ was dirty with the powder of allspice and black pepper. The walnuts were a creamy but dirty sludge brown. Not the most appealing food for the future.
I have stored the jars in a dark cupboard and will leave them for a while. I don’t know when to open and eat but imagine they will remain edible for at least a year. By making plans as I go, I wonder if the walnuts are already pickled or whether letting them sit in the fluid will create the pickle. I will be waiting to see which, if any, version of the pickling process causes the pickled walnuts to improve with age –I will open one jar of each (the salted and the not salted) in a few months and then the second much later on.
Brimming with confidence they will be edible, if not a little strange, I expect to use the walnuts by straining off the liquid and scattering them across fresh salads.