Pickled walnuts are a traditional English pickle.
The walnuts used to make pickled walnuts are from the variety Juglans regia, commonly known as the English or Persian walnut. The pickled walnut was a common delicacy in early 19th-century England. Charles Dickens mentions them in his book The Pickwick Papers, published in 1836. In chapter 49 he writes,
However, there he lay, and I have heard my uncle say, many a time, that the man said who picked him up that he was smiling as merrily as if he had tumbled out for a treat, and that after they had bled him, the first faint glimmerings of returning animation, were his jumping up in bed, bursting out into a loud laugh, kissing the young woman who held the basin, and demanding a mutton chop and a pickled walnut. He was very fond of pickled walnuts, gentlemen. He said he always found that, taken without vinegar, they relished the beer.
In Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh they are mentioned too in the first chapter. Today they are a delicacy found on tables mainly at Christmas time but many recipes can be found using them, more commonly cooked in with beef dishes or served with an English blue cheese such as Stilton.
The first stage is to pick the walnuts whilst they are still green and the outer shell is still soft. Most recipes say that June is about the best time to pick them. The soft shelled walnuts are then soaked in brine (salt water) for up to 12 days. The walnuts are then drained and left to dry in the air. The fluid in the walnuts causes a chemical reaction to take place and the walnuts turn dark brown to black in colour. The now black walnuts are then placed into jars and a pickling solution poured over them. This can vary from a straight forward pickling vinegar to a solution containing spices and sugar. The walnuts are sealed and then left in the jars for anywhere between 5 days and 8 weeks depending on which recipe is followed.
- Dickens, Charles (1836). Pickwick Papers.
- Waugh, Evelyn (1945). Brideshead Revisited.
- Heath, Ambrose (Ed); Joan Robins (1957). Modern Home Cookery in Pictures. Odhams Press, London.