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) 

Date: 26th June 2018
16kg walnuts
15 litres water 1500g salt (10% brine solution) 

Date: 19th June 2019
21kg walnuts
16 litres water 1778g salt (10% brine solution) 
The pricking process for 1 person was 250g per minute.
The walnuts this year are very big.

Date: 17th June 2020
11kg walnuts
12 litres water 1200g 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.

New idea 2020. Instead of keeping the walnuts in jars in vinegar I store the walnuts in a dried condition. When a jar of pickled walnut is finished I just add some dried walnuts and top it up with some more vinegar. They are ready to eat about 5 days later. This method uses a lot less vinegar and it means that the vinegar does not have to be very strong. One problem with picked walnuts it that the vinegar is very strong. Recently I have started putting then in water for a couple of days before eating and the vinegar is much less sharp. I have also started doing this with pickled beetroot. Just boil up small batches of beetroot from the garden and recycle the beetroot vinegar. If they are only going to be in the jars for a few weeks a weaker vinegar can be used. I have been using pear wine vinegar which came from a batch of wine which went wrong. 

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

Summer means tomato salads, gazpacho and salmorejo but when tomato production is in full flow and supplies are starting to mount up, that’s the time to start canning. Over the years, I’ve experimented with all different kinds of canning methods but this is now the method I use to ensure that we have tomatoes all year.

 I use a pressure cooker but if you haven’t got one, then use a large pan and cook for longer.

The first job is to clean your jars. My jar of choice is the 400g one they sell chickpeas, pinto beans, etc. in. Clean all the jars and lids in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Leave to dry upside down on a tray with a teatowel until you need them. Discard any lids with dents in.

Wash and chop the tomatoes into pieces, removing the central core. Transfer to a large, wide frying pan or wok with some salt and bring to the boil. The amount of salt will obviously depend on the size of the pan, but generally speaking I will add 3 teaspoons for a very large pan. We normally do this part of the process outside on the barrel burner. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes or so until the tomatoes are softer and have started to release their juice.

The next part of the process is to separate the tomato pieces from the tomato juice. You’ll need two colanders: place one over a large pan and the other on a dish high/large enough to catch the juice. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomato pieces into the colander on the dish, using a swirling action to remove as much juice as possible but the tomato pieces shouldn’t be too dry. 

Use a jam funnel and a dessert spoon to fill the clean jars with tomato pieces to the “shoulder” of the jar. Top up the jars with the tomato juice to about 5-7mm from the top and use the spoon to make sure that there are no air pockets in the jars. Put the lids on the jars and close securely but not overly tight.

You will always have more juice than you need but you can use this for soup or return to the pan and reduce down to form a concentrated tomato paste or sauce.

Put a trivet or silicone mat on the bottom of the pressure cook and place the jars on top. Half fill the pressure cooker with water, close the lid and bring to pressure. Cook at pressure for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes. If you have a quick-release cooker, gently run under cold water and release the pressure.

Remove the jars and put somewhere to cool. After about 30 minutes, you should hear the lids popping as they contract. Leave to cool completely. If any of lids has not contracted or if juice has escaped from any of the jars, replace the lids, add some more juice and redo with the next batch.   

tomatoes bain marie

Tomatoes in a bain marie

 

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.