Pickled Walnuts – How to make them

Pickled walnuts

Pickled Walnuts – This is the finished product. These have been in vinegar since last year. I made 8kg last year but only have 2 jars left.

I have always loved pickled walnuts. The green immature nuts are pickled before they go hard. Apparently they are very popular in England especially before strong tasting Indian spices because available.  Their main use is with cheese in ploughman’s lunch type meals. We add them to salads and I occasionally  eat one neat right out of the jar. Before writing this post I visited about 12 other pages about pickled walnuts. Most of them have an almost identical recipe.  The main variations are the amount of salt to put in the brine, the amount of time to leave them in the brine and to either boil them after brining or to leave them in the sun. There is a lot of difference in how sweet people like them, the commercial ones are quite sweet.

I have made them for the last 3 years but each year I forgot how I did it the previous year so hopefully this blog post will help me improve them scientifically.

It is possible to buy pickled walnuts but they are incredibly expensive. In the USA a 390g bottle costs $16  Click here to buy pickled walnuts at Amazon That would mean that the the batch I am making this year would be worth $615 or $51 per month, that is enough to pay for the internet connection.  In the UK you can buy pickled walnuts in the shops I think they are made by  Crosse & Blackwell. (or is that Branston Pickle?)

The amount of salt
If you look at other recipes they often give very inexact instructions about how much salt to add. In the end I have decided to use a 10% brine solution. Just put all the green walnuts into a bucket. Weigh the bucket with some weighing scales. Add the water until they completely cover the walnuts, then weigh the bucket again. If you are using the metric system the increase in weight is the same as the amount of water so in our case 7.6 kilos is 7.6 litres.  Then I used the brine calculator on this page

What is the salt doing? I don’t think any fermentation is going on in this recipe. The function of the salt is to draw the liquid out of the walnuts and to enable them to dry out without rotting and then replace the liquid with preservative vinegar. By the way 3 years ago I made them much too salty before pickling. I corrected this by putting them in water for a day. 

The Recipe
Date: 5th June 2015
10kg walnuts
7.6 litres water + 843g salt (10% brine solution) 

Date: 22nd June 2016
17.4kg walnuts
18 litres water +2000g salt (10% brine solution) 

 

Method
Pick green walnuts with no hard shell inside: (in early June)
Prick them all with a fork
Leave then in salt water brine for 3 weeks. (move them around with your hand occasionally)
Drain the water leave them in the sun until they are dry and black. (3 days)
Put them into jars and pour vinegar over them.
Add pickling spices to the vinegar.
Malt vinegar is probably best with you can also use cider vinegar with a couple of bottles of balsamic vinegar mixed in.

By the way: The best place to buy malt vinegar is in the Asian supermarkets in Sparkbrook Birmingham UK. It is possible buy it  in 5 litre containers at low prices.

picking_walnuts

Kayley and Ian Picking walnuts

This is Kayley our Maori volunteer  from New Zealand and Ian from Scotland picking walnuts. Shep the dog tried a walnut but ended up vomitting. I tried a raw one last year and it almost made me vomit. The haircuts are done with  battery operated clippers from Lidl.

Green walnuts in the tree

Green walnuts in the tree

The green walnuts read around mid June. If you push a knitting needle through them you should meet no hard bits.

pricking_walnuts

Here we are prickling the green walnuts with a table fork about 4 times each nut. I did warn Kayley and Ian  that it is best to use rubber gloves but they liked the idea of having brown hands for a few days.

walnuts

Some of these nuts have blemished. It does not matter because they all turn black in the end.

Here is a the wikipedia entry for walnuts

I will put some more pictures up as the process continues.

 

Preserving tomatoes

canning tomatoes

Preserving tomatoes: canning

One of the problems of canning tomatoes is the length of time needed to reduce the tomatoes and then having to clean the pans afterwards as the tomatoes tend to stick to the bottom. I have therefore developed a method which solved both these problems.

First cut the tomatoes into pieces, removing the central cores. Transfer to a large, wide frying pan or wok and bring to the boil. Heat the tomatoes until they start to release their juice. Strain off the juice using a colander. 

Fill clean jars almost to the top with the tomatoes. Meanwhile, reduce the juice until only a few spoonfuls remain and use it to top up the jars. If you find you have some juice left over, you can always empty the juice out of the tomato jars and reduce it further. Put the lids on the jars but don’t tighten too much: it is important for air to escape as the jars are heated in the next step.

tomatoes bain marie

Tomatoes in the bain marie

I then heated the filled jars in a bain marie for 15 minutes. I put a trivet on the base of the pan so that the jars were not in direct contact with the heat. Lift out the jars and fully tighten the lids so that the jars will be vacuum sealed once they have cooled

Easy way to prepare olives

Olives in Salt

I have had many attempts at preserving and preparing olives but none of them worked very well until I found this simple technique.

When olives are prepared by any method we are basically doing two things. 1. Stopping the olives rotting. 2. Getting rid of some of the bitterness from the olives.

My technique is very easy. Just pick some black olives (the later you pick them the more oil content they have) then put them in a container with sea salt. It is best if the container is totally open at the top and it is good if the sun shines on them to evaporate some of the liquid. Mix them around every few days with a stick or with your hands. At first a lot of liquid collects at the bottom of the container. You can pour this off.

The salt draws the liquid and most of the bitterness from the olives. Eventually after about 6 weeks the olives become totally dry.

Separate them from the salt with a garden riddle or any other type of sieve. After this you have dessicated olives which you can store for as long as you like.

Every couple of days put a handful of olives in a glass jar of water in the kitchen. It takes anything between 8 and 48 hours for them to re-hydrate.  Put a handful of the re-hydrated olives on salads, pizzas or anything you want. If you put them in a bowl and them put a few drops of olive oil over them they taste and look  like the Greek olives I used to buy when I lived in Finsbury Park London.

 

Dried Pears

Winter Pears

We have a large winter pear tree below the vegetable garden and every year there is a big crop of pears. (we probably have such a big crop because the pear tree is below the garden and the tree’s roots take in a lot of the nutrients that have seeped through from the garden) .

Every year until this year we have not eaten many of the Winter pears because at the end of the Autumn they are still very hard and they don’t seem to store well. This year the whole crop was lying on the ground below the tree¬† in mid December and they were starting to go ripen. Many of them were already rotten. In order to make some use of them I decided to dry them using our drying machine.

Slced Pears in the drying machine

A few months ago I bought a 250 watt Arizona food dehydrator on the internet. There are 5 layers of plastic with many holes in and the food is loaded on each layer until it is full.

It would be possible to slice the pears by hand but I put them through the slicing attachment on Sarah’s Magimix Food processor to save time.¬† The picture on the left shows the fully loaded drying machine ready for use.

Dried pears in the drying machne

The foto on the left shows the dehydrated pears after about 8 hour in the machine. They are not totally dessicated and they are leathery rather than brittle. The idea is to add them to our mueseli.

They are really tasty and they could be eaten as a heathy snack. I imagine that they would be perfect for children.

To find out the cost of the electricty consumed I used a consumption calculator here http://crazycalculations.com/electrical_consumption/index.php According to the calculator the drying cost me 38 euro cents. (I was at the coastal house where we use Iberdrola who charge 19 cents per Kwh)

Dried Pears after they have been dried.

The pear drying experiment was a big success. The dried pears are delicious and this year will be the first year that we have been able to use many of the winter pears.

I had previously tried storing the pears but they tend to go brown which makes them emit ethylene gas which makes all of them go off very quickly.