A traditional English accompaniment to cold meats and blue cheeses, pickled walnuts have a buttery texture and sharp flavour with a hint of nuttiness that’s curiously addictive. You need to pick the walnut fruits before the nuts inside begin to harden – test one by seeing if you can push a skewer right through without any resistance – usually around late June.
The juice from the walnuts is very staining – as is the brine in which they steep – so wear gloves and an apron and mop up any spills as quickly as you can.
- 850g green walnuts, picked before the shells begin to harden
- 750g fine sea salt
- 2 onions
- 850ml cider vinegar
- 1 large wood avens root
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- Wash the walnuts and let them drain. In a large bowl, make a brine using 150ml of the salt with 1.5 litres of water. Wearing gloves, prick each walnut in several places with a skewer and add them to the brine. When all the walnuts are done, place a small upturned plate on top to keep the nuts submerged. Cover the bowl and leave for ten days, changing the brine every two days. The brine will get very black and silty as the tannin is purged from the walnuts, so wear gloves and an apron to prevent staining.
- When the ten days are up, drain and rinse the walnuts and put them on a wire rack to dry (use a baking sheet or roasting tin underneath to catch any drips). Leave them for about 24 hours until they have turned completely black.
- Pack the walnuts into two sterilised 750ml preserving jars. Chop the onions and put them into a pan with the vinegar, wood avens root, mustard seeds and peppercorns. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain the vinegar over the walnuts in the jars so that the nuts are fully submerged. Leave to cool, then fasten on the lids.
- Allow the walnuts to mature in the vinegar for 1 month before using.
Recipe and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK