The first of these recipes needs to be made in the summer, before the walnuts have formed a shell – see my article http://www.campaignforrealfarming.org/2020/09/british-walnuts
How to Pickle Walnuts
Pick Green Walnuts between mid-June and mid-July (21st at the very latest) before the shell has begun to form around the inner kernel. You can test for this by passing a thick needle or skewer right through the walnut. Wear gloves when doing this as the clear juices exuded by the walnut will dye anything they come into contact with a very dark brown.
Step 1 – Brining
This is necessary to draw out the toxins. Make a brine at the strength of 150g salt for each litre of water. You need sufficient water to completely cover the walnuts. Prick the walnuts in several places to help them eliminate the toxins. Over the next few days the water will turn dark – it is a good idea to drain this off and replace with fresh brine every three days. It will take 9 days to draw out all of the toxins.
Step 2 – Drying
Rinse in fresh water and then leave to dry on a rack, in the sunshine if possible. The walnuts should not be touching and should be turned occasionally. After two to three days (depending on the drying conditions) the walnuts will turn black and you are then ready to proceed to the next stage.
Step 3 – Making the pickling vinegar
Having experimented with different cures I prefer the sweet cure recommended by the WI, although have substituted cider vinegar for their malt vinegar.
1 litre cider vinegar
500 g dark brown sugar
Teaspoon each of salt, black peppercorns, allspice berries, cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
Heat the vinegar and flavouring ingredients for 15 minutes then leave until cold before bottling.
Step 4 – Cook in a water bath
The presence of sugar in the cure means that the bottled walnuts needed to be preserved in a hot water bath. Find a pan in which the filled bottles can be completely submerged. Bring the water temperature up to 88°C and hold it here for 10 minutes.
Step 5 – Maturing
Although hot cures will penetrate more quickly than cold, whichever cure and bottling method you have used, the spices will need a good length of time to penetrate the walnuts. The walnuts will absorb vinegar so after six weeks if any are completely dry top up with cold vinegar to keep them covered. They could be eaten the first Christmas after making but will be considerably better the following year and will continue to improve for up to 4 years.
When Dr William Kitchiner, scientist and enjoyer of the good things in life, died in 1827, a friend wrote of him that “to invent odd things and give them odd names was his special hobby”. This is probably as close as we shall ever come to knowing why the doctor, who invented this sauce, should have called it “Wow-wow”. The name may be derived from an exclamation at the sauce’s spiciness, or, more fancifully, since it was thought to go especially well with venison, from the warning bark of a deer. Only Kitchener knew the truth and he took his secret with him.
The recipe first appeared in his Cook’s Oracle (1817). It would be excellent served with barbequed meats.
2 oz butter
1 oz plain flour
½ pint meat stock
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp prepared English mustard
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup or port
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
6 pickled walnuts, diced
Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time. Gradually add the stock, stirring well to avoid lumps.
When the sauce is smooth, add the vinegar, mustard and mushroom ketchup or port. Simmer again, stirring from time to time, until you have the consistency you want.
Stir in the chopped parsley and the diced pickled walnuts. Let the sauce heat through for another minute or so and serve hot.
SALSA DI NOCI
Use this sauce to dress fresh tagliatelle pasta or to accompany fish.
To dress 1lb pasta:
7oz/200g walnut pieces
2oz/50g pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
10 fl oz single cream
salt and pepper
Pound the nuts with the garlic using a pestle and mortar until you achieve small pieces but not a paste. Chop the parsley and mix with the nuts and garlic.
Heat the cream to just below simmering point. Mix with the nuts to form a sauce the consistency of thick cream.