There are hundreds of ways to enjoy Walnuts, and we intend to feature some of the most interesting recipes here. If you have an unusual or delicious way of cooking or presenting our favourite nut, then please let us know and we'll try to feature it. As a starter, we've put in a few famous recipes.
A specialist use of Walnuts which gets a section to itself is pickling below. There are dozens of variations to the recipe and in time we will try to include some of the more exotic ones here.
Although little publicised, there is plenty of research and anecdotal evidence to show that Walnuts have a very positive effect on health when eaten raw or as oil. There is also a long tradition in herbal medicine of using Walnut leaves, husk and bark as well as the shell and kernel. The Black Walnut in particular is known as an antifungal and the powdered shell appears in many remedies.
There seem to be two attitudes to pickled Walnuts - love and loathing. A traditional Christmas delicacy and often partnered with Stilton cheese, pickled Walnuts are in fact available the year round in specialist shops. Much easier and more satisfying, though, to make your own in the Summer and have them on tap if, of course, you can resist eating them all in a few weeks.
Here's the basic method: pick plenty of young green nuts in late June - early July, before the shell has started to form inside. You can check this with a pin - stick it in at the end where the flower was. If a shell has started to form it will be a quarter-inch or so in, and you will need to discard the fruit. Oh, and watch out for the juice, which will stain skin and some fabrics. The preferred variety commercially is Buccaneer but any decent nuts will do. Notice, by the way, that we are using the whole fruit, including the outer green husk which is always discarded when the mature nuts are picked in Autumn.
Next, make up a brine with about 100g of salt per litre of water and after (optionally) pricking the Walnuts with a fork either
- Soak the Walnuts for a week, pour off the brine and repeat, or
- Boil up the brine and Walnuts, take off the heat and leave for a day.
Whichever way you do it, decant the nuts at the end and put them in a dry, airy place in trays. In two to three days they will have turned black. While you are waiting for this make up the pickling medium as follows:
For each 2Kg/5lb of nuts make up a mixture of:
- 1 litre proper, brewed malt vinegar
- 500g brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon each allspice, cloves and fresh grated ginger
- 1 half-teaspoon each cinnamon and black peppercorns
When the Walnuts are ready, bring the liquid to the boil, add the nuts and let it all simmer for a quarter of an hour. When the mixture has cooled put it into clean glass jars with the liquid covering the nuts. Simple!
Nuts in the diet have been known for a long time to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. Oils high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids such as Walnut, Hemp and Linseed (flax) are a good addition to the diet since our bodies require them for good general health but cannot manufacture them. Walnuts have been found also to help reduce cholesterol levels and especially to have an effect on Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs) which are implicated in much heart disease. The Omega-3 varieties are thought to help with heartbeat regulation and blood clotting as well (which of course is related both to stroke and to heart attacks). The study which reported these results is reported here.
As with all oils containing valuable omega essential fatty acids, Walnut oil should never be heated and should be kept in cool, dark conditions to preserve its efectiveness. Add it after cooking to a stir-fry or pasta, make it into salad dressing or add as a flavouring to pickles and sauces once cold.
Of course, Walnuts are also a high-energy food, and should replace other less beneficial fats in the diet, rather than adding to them.