Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Walnut.

The walnut is probably one of the most versatile of all nuts. Green walnuts can be pickled, slightly riper walnuts can be preserved in syrup, and fully ripe nuts can be eaten straight from the shell or enjoyed in a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes. To name a few: Bulgarian tarator (a sort of cold garlicky yoghurt, cucumber, and walnut soup), Persian fesenjān (a rich but tart stew containing various meats, pomegranate juice, and walnuts), and of course, the painfully sweet Greek pastry called baklava. Several nations claim walnut soup, and there is a multitude of walnut sauces. You can use it to make pesto, and it is superb in ice-cream or cakes or fudge. And of course, walnut oil is magnificent, if fresh, (it goes rancid very quickly) and could well be the secret ingredient in your next fabulous salad. 

Aside from its culinary use, walnut juice provides a fine dark brown dye – as anyone who has picked green walnuts and ended up with indelibly stained fingers will attest. 

The early history of the walnut is honourably obscure, which indicates its great antiquity. Two varieties make up the bulk of the walnuts consumed around the world. Juglans regia provides the finer ‘Persian’ (or ‘English’) walnut, Juglans nigra, the Eastern Black Walnut, is less important and not so elegant a flavour, they say.

I forgot to mention that walnuts make a pretty good liqueur beverage too. It is called Nocino, and hails from northern Italy. For the recipe for the day, I give you another beverage. Most coffee substitutes sound pretty awful to me, but I may be converted by roasted walnuts. 

Walnut Coffee.
Roast the kernels on a pie-tin, and bake in the oven until they are nicely browned but not scorched. When cold, mash them to a meal with a cup or glass bottle on the tin, and use 1 tablespoonful for 2 cups of coffee. It is rich, and has the best flavour of all coffee substitutes.
Guide for nut cookery together with a brief history of nuts and their food values, by Almeida Lambert (Battle Creek, Michigan, 1899)

I also forgot to mention that walnut leaves do not need to be wasted:

Walnut Wine.
Put two pounds of brown sugar, and a pound of honey, to every gallon of water. Boil them half an hour, and take off the scum. Put into the tub a handful of walnut leaves to every gallon, and pour the liquor upon them. Let it stand all night, then take out the leaves, and put in half a pint of yest [yeast.] Let it work fourteen days, and beat it four or five times a day, which will take off the sweetness. Then stop up the cask, and let it stand six months.
The London art of cookery (1787), by John Farley

Quotation for the Day.
A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree, the more you beat them the better they be.
Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)?


Les said...

Why would anyone think to brew walnut leaves? Are leaves from other types of tree also brewed like this?

The Old Foodie said...

I think that at one time or another, humans have tried to brew just about everything! I wonder if it tastes nutty?

Kathleen said...

I have a walnut tree nearby....time to gather leaves (the only thing the squirrels left behind) and try some tomorrow.I'll report back!

Piet said...

I believe peach leaves are brewed in a similar way to make peach wine. I've never tasted it however.

Marcheline said...


Judy said...

Black walnuts are very good in cookies, brownies, and fudge, but black walnut ice cream is the best way to eat black walnuts by far.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Judy - i was hoping for some insights into black walnuts this week, from my friends over the big water!