Pickling walnuts

Due to a misunderstanding, I spent a long afternoon and evening last week doing something I never imagined. The activity then triggered a chain of other preserving and pudding making so as not to be wasteful!

Back in June, Mr C had told me about a farm he had visited who were harvesting walnuts. I did think it was a tad early but the idea that I could preserve walnuts in honey was sown. I mentioned I’d like a few kilos of my favourite nuts and the order was placed.

With honey such a precious commodity I liked the thought of jars of walnuts floating in the liquid gold.

Last week was walnut collection time, so I went along to meet the farmer ( also a retired beekeeper) whilst hubby had a meeting with the farm manager.

After a delightful chat about bees with the ninety year old gentleman, his manager presented a large box of black balls- the walnuts!

I’d never seen anything like it, or spent so much money on nuts!

What on Earth had I ordered?!

Always one to embrace a challenge I searched through my extensive collection of cookery books and self sufficiency manuals in the hope of finding a recipe for preserving walnuts.

Strictly Come Dancing’s Len Goodman has referred to pickled walnuts on a number of occasions but I’d never seen, let alone tasted them. To be perfectly honest I knew that even beautifully gift wrapped and pickled in our finest spices and Greg’s cider vinegar, I couldn’t imagine them ever being opened by anyone I would give them too!

They had also cost quite a bit more than anticipated,so they had to be preserved in a way that would entice anyone given them to at least taste them.

Giving up on my recipe books, I was forced to search the web, where I stumbled upon a Georgian ( Eastern European) recipe using honey. With the very large box of black nuts to process I decided to attempt a cider vinegar recipe too that a blogger had adapted from a Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall recipe.

The nuts had a least been soaked and salted using a long winded timely process to make the nuts edible.

I learned that the practice of harvesting them early, whilst still green with soft skins, was to beat the squirrels who prefer them ripe. By soaking and salting them, repeatedly rinsing, the nuts turn black and are soft enough to eat, shells and all.

Both recipes needed a mix of spices, which thankfully I had in my Larder.

I adapted both of them, using honey to soak the walnuts before adding the syrup and spices. With honey being so precious I didn’t want to simmer the walnuts in honey and water then throw the liquid away.

After 4 hours of rinsing, soaking and simmering, the nuts were ready to be bottled and then covered with The spiced honey syrup. The walnuts didn’t all stay whole, so a pile of spices mash inspired me to make my Christmas puddings, adding this ready spiced mush….

Over the weekend it was the local Beekeeping association’s ‘Honey Show’. I was unable to go as I was spending the weekend on my Medical Herbalist residential course but had planned to enter a few items. As I completed the form, I noticed a class for a ‘Preserve with honey as an ingredient’.

I couldn’t resist entering a jar of my freshly preserved walnuts.

On my return Sunday evening I was delighted to have received a collection of blue and yellow certificates for my various entries.

One red certificate was particularly rewarding, my walnuts won first prize!

Can’t say that I fancy making this an addition to my autumnal preserving routine, but I am pleased that at least somebody appreciated my first attempt!

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