Admittedly, not the first thing to come to mind when thinking of pickled foods, so if you have never tried pickled walnuts, give this pickled walnut recipe a go. Pickled green walnuts are an English pickle dating back to the 18th century. I still remember trying them for the first time in a posh English hotel I once worked in and loving the taste. I am Indian and love my pickles and sour things, and this took me back to my childhood days when I would eat dried date pickles, which in India we call chuara churan.
This pickled walnuts recipe is easy to follow. Traditionally pickled walnuts are eaten with sharp cheddar, or with roasts and game; however, I find them equally delicious on toast with vegan cheese, in pies, pasties and even in my burgers.
Pickled green walnuts are sour/tangy, like solid Worcestershire sauce. It's probably England's best-kept secret!
How Do I Identify A Walnut Tree?
A mature walnut tree can grow up to 35m high. They have a short trunk with a broad, expansive canopy.
A common way to identify a tree is by its leaves. Each leaf of the walnut tree has between five and nine leaflets. The leaflets are shaped like a feather and paired along the leaf stem. A single leaflet terminates the stem. Crushed walnut leaves have a distinct, citrus-like smell.
We want to harvest the fruit for pickled walnuts before the hard nut shell starts to form. Late June, Early July is the time for this. In autumn, the nut case opens and exposes the walnut, which falls to the ground.
You can see if you have caught them before the nutshell hardens by cutting through one of them. If you can cut it in half, it is suitable for pickling, and you can carry on gathering the unripe walnuts.
Of course, you can enjoy the walnuts when they have fully matured. The nuts themselves will be ready to harvest around October.
Ingredients For Pickled Walnuts
- Unripe green walnuts
- Coarse sea salt
- Malt vinegar
See the recipe card for quantities.
First, find a walnut tree to harvest the unripe, green walnuts. Do this in late June or early July.
Wash and pat dry the walnuts.
With a fork, stab the walnuts all over.
Add the water and coarse sea salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the salt has dissolved, please remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool.
Tightly pack the pricked walnuts into a sterilised jar. Pack tight enough so that the walnuts do not float in the brine.
Pour the brine (salt water) into the jar to cover all walnuts completely. Secure the jar lid and store it in a cool, dark place for eight days.
After eight days, drain the brine-soaked walnuts and place them on a tray. Put the walnuts outside in the sun all day. Turn them from time to time, so they darken evenly.
After a day in the sun, the brine-soaked walnuts will have darkened in colour.
In a saucepan, add the malt vinegar and castor sugar. Bring to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, set it aside to cool. Tightly pack the darkened walnuts into a sterilised jar and pour in this pickling liquor once it has cooled down.
Seal the jar and place it in a cool, dark place for one month. Label the jar so that you know when the pickled walnuts are ready.
Here is a video guide to making the pickled walnuts recipe.
This pickled walnuts recipe uses malt vinegar specifically for the earthy flavour it gives; however, you can replace it with cider vinegar.
This recipe for pickling walnuts is simple. However, you can add another layer of flavour by adding a choice of spices to the pickling liquor. Perhaps try black pepper or allspice and even ginger.
You will need a large glass jar for pickling. The jar size will depend on how large the walnuts are and how many you would like to pickle.
If you have adequately sterilised the jar, the pickles should be good for up to a year. To sterilise a jar, wash in warm soapy water and then place in an oven at 100ºC for thirty minutes. Make sure you use a clean, dry spoon each time you take out the pickled walnuts.
The brine and pickling liquid measurement in the recipe card is based on the size of my jar and walnuts. The best way to judge exactly how much of each you need is to pack the walnuts in your selected jar and add water before you start. The amount of water you pour in is the amount of brine and pickling liquid you will need for the recipe proper.
- 500 or 750 ml Jam jar or similar
- 10 Green Walnuts
- 2 teaspoon Coarse sea salt
- 25 gms Castor sugar
- 250 ml Malt vinegar
- 300 ml Water
- Wash and pat dry the walnuts. Using a fork, prick the walnuts all over.
- In a pot or pan, add the water and the salt and bring to a boil. Once it boils and the salt has dissolved, immediately turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
- In a sterilised jar, pack the walnuts tightly (tight enough so they don't float up when adding the brine.)
- Pour the cooled-down brine (salt-water) into the jar with the walnuts and seal tight. Leave the jar in a cool dark place for eight days.
- After eight days, drain the brine. Place the walnuts onto a flat plate or tray, and leave them in the sun for a whole day. Turn the walnuts from time to time, so that they darken evenly. At the end of the day you will see that the walnuts have turned black.
- Pour the malt vinegar and castor sugar into a pan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat once the sugar has dissolved and set it aside to cool.
- Once again, pack the walnuts into a sterilised jar tightly.
- Pour the cooled-down pickling liquor into the jar with the walnuts and seal the jar shut. Set aside in a cool dark place (under 21ºC) for a month.
- After a month, the pickled walnuts are ready to use as desired.
In a professional kitchen, food hygiene and safety are a top priority, and from the beginning of training, I practised good habits and routines. Of course, it is also very important to practice good food hygiene and safety at home. Here are some fundamental practices to adopt in the kitchen.
- Wash your hands regularly while preparing, handling and cooking food
- Wipe down countertops and high contact points regularly
- If you cook meat and fish, do not use the same utensils on cooked food that previously touched raw meat. Use separate chopping boards for meat and fish. Wash your chopping boards immediately after use.
- Thoroughly cook food to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods (more than 2 hours)
- Store food correctly
For more details on food hygiene and safety in the home, visit the UK Government's Food Standards Agency webpage.