Pickled Green Walnuts
Even after committing enough of my green walnut shipment to making over 3 L of nocino, I still found myself with 2 lbs of green walnuts left over. Pickled green walnuts are claimed by both French and English cuisine, and I have cobbled together this recipe from both French and English sources. All of the recipes I’ve seen call for allspice, which I don’t care for, so I have substituted black peppercorns and coriander seeds instead.
Pickled Green Walnuts
2 lbs black walnuts, picked when still green and soft
2 batches of brine, each 1/2 cup salt to 5 cups water
2 cups malt vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups raw cane sugar
1 cinnamon stick, crushed
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
Wearing gloves to avoid staining your hands, prick the green walnuts all over with a large needle.
Place the walnuts in a glass bowl or large glass jar. Mix 1/2 cup salt with 5 cups water, and pour enough of the brining solution over the walnuts to cover. They will float, so weight them down with a small plate if you’re using a glass bowl; if using a glass jar, fill to the top with brining solution and then seal tightly with the lid.
Store in a cool place, stirring or shaking once or twice a day to ensure good distribution of the brining solution. After 5 days, drain and add a fresh batch of brine.
After another 5 days, drain the walnuts and lay them out in a single layer in an airy place for several days, until they turn black but are not dried out.
Put the remaining ingredients into a large pan and bring to a boil. Add the walnuts, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Spoon the walnuts into sterilized jars, cover with the syrup, and seal tightly. Some recipes call for boiling the syrup and pouring it over the walnuts in the jars, but leaving the walnuts uncooked means you have to wait six weeks for the pickling action to take place before you can start eating. With the nocino still six months from being potable, I am definitely looking for some instant walnut gratification, so I opted for the cooked method. I like that cooking renders the walnuts soft and almost spreadable, like a chunky chutney.
Serve with cheese, mixed into mashed potatoes, blended into dressings, on cold cut sandwiches, or any other way that strikes you as tasty. This intensely spicy-sweet condiment tastes especially amazing with blue cheese (an English Stilton would be appropriate, but here in Iowa we have the Maytag Dairy, which is justifiably renowned for its crumbly-creamy blue). The “pickle” has more heat than I had expected — likely a result of the peppercorns. The heat cuts well through the syrupy sweetness, which might otherwise be overwhelming. I am also high-fiving myself over ditching the allspice in favor of the coriander seeds, which add a bright, almost citrusy note. I sense a budding addiction… I’m going to have to carefully ration my half a dozen jars of pickled walnuts to last me until next year’s green walnut season!
*Addendum* I pureed the contents of one jar into a smooth, thick, hoisin-like sauce, which adds some versatility to how it can be used. Mmm.