Friday, June 5, 2009

Nuts in May, or Early June

The old walniut tree in our garden is beginning to burst forth with embryonic walnuts. We harvested tons in 2007, and were giving them away to anyone who would cart them away. We like walnuts but not in such vast quantities. I was using the mature ones in cakes and salads and pickling the young ones. Such is our passion for pickled walnuts both 1 litre kilner jars remain unopened in the store cupboard.

If you 're not a pickled walnut fan the French have a very nice liquer (quelle surprise !) which they bring out with other sweet drinks for aperos.

Obviously you need your own walnut tree, or access to ripening nuts because they mustn’t be too big. By the end of June the shells will be set and this recipe calls for them to be still bright green and easily crushed. So here, in SW France there’s no time to be lost.

There’s no need for expensive equipment or ingredients (except for the alcohol)
Before you start you will need:

A few Kilner- type jars,some paper coffee filters, or a muslin jelly bag if you have one, and some empty wine bottles.

For the liqueuer you will need
20-30 green walnuts about the size of a small apricot
575 ml/ 1pint 40% fruit alcohol. (vodka can be substituted without any noticeable loss of flavour.)
1 clove and 1 small piece of cinnamon…..don’t overdo the spices as even these amounts add quite a lot of flavour.
A vanilla pod
125g/ 4oz sugar
100ml/ 3 fl ozs water.

Before starting to process the walnuts it’s advisable to use rubber gloves unless you don’t mind your hands being an unusually dark brown!

Lay the nuts on a non-porous surface (they WILL stain your work-top given the chance.)
Crush with a mallet into small pieces, and tip into a large, sterilised kilner, or other suitable screw top jar. Add the alcohol, the spices and the vanilla pod.
Close the jar tightly and leave on a sunny window sill for at least two weeks, but anything up to 6 or 8 weeks is preferable…..the longer the better. Try to remember to shake the jar every few days.
When your patience runs out, or the sun disappears, strain the liquid (which probably resembles sump oil in colour by now!) into a clean jug using a funnel and a filter.
Dissolve the sugar and water over a gentle heat, making sure there are no sugar crystals left in the bottom of the saucepan and leave to cool.
When it has cooled add to the strained walnut liquid.
Pour into sterilised bottles, cork and store until Christmas, or even better the Christmas after that!
The finished liqueur has herbal overtones with just a hint of cinnamon and clove. The addition of a vanilla pod is not authentic to the traditional recipe but it imparts a mellow tone to the drink.
It will be very dark green, almost like dark Chartreuse, and is delightfully warming on a chilly winter evening.

It will be drinkable by Christmas, but if you can forget about it until the next Christmas it will be superb. So they say - I never manage to keep anything in a bottle for as long as that!

1 comment:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Nice to read you again! We have two walnut trees which were planted about forty years ago. Last year, for the first time, they fruited and we got thirty walnuts from the two trees!! I do like the sound of that drink though, shall keep the recipe in case those two trees surprise us this year, but don't hold your breath.