Pickled walnuts are a tradition in England, delicious with a French brie or a good strong cheese, wonderful with roast lamb or some well-cured ham. Strange, shiny black balls which you either adore or feel nervous about eating!
This method comes from a very old Yorkshire W.I.* Recipe Book and a brine recipe adapted over time. (*Women’s Institute)
When to pick?
Locals told in France say that the date of 12th June was the last day to pick green walnuts. After that, it was just too late. From research, 23rd June and 24th June are the deadlines in France and Italy. Some years the end of June is just too late and the result in hard pieces which are dentally challenging!
By co-incidence the 12th June is my granddaughter’s birthday and the 23rd that of my son. It seems right that I defer to a younger member of the family to be sure to have the most tender green walnuts to pickle.
Collecting the walnuts.
The bounty of walnuts I found in France caused excitement and urged me on to try pickling green walnuts, something which had been a treat from the deli when living in the UK years ago.
Method:Collect the green walnuts before the shells begin to form. Test by pricking with a darning needle at the end away from the stalk. (If you hit shell, do not waste, save for making walnut aperatif!*) Place the nuts in brine for 2 days – 100 gr salt to 1 litre of water. Change the brine and soak for another 7 days. Drain well, arrange in single layers on a flat dish. Expose to the air and turn them occasionally. When quite black pack into jars. It will take about 3 days. Cover with hot spiced vinegar.
Keep for at least 3 months before using.
Spiced VinegarReady spiced vinegar can be too harsh, making your own gives a better result. Cider vinegar gives a better flavour than malt vinegar. Add a handful of spices, such as mustard seed, peppercorns, cloves, root ginger. Lightly bruise the spices to release the flavour and then gently bring ot the boil with the vinegar for about 5 minutes. Dissolving a tablespoon of brown sugar per litre of vinegar at this point gives a really good flavour.
Allow to cool and keep in stoppered bottle until the walnuts are ready to pickle. You should really wait about 6 months until around Christmas.
*Recipe for Walnut Aperatif to follow in future post.