Remember those walnuts we spotted last week? Well, we decided that we had better do something with them, and fast. Apparently the squirrels are likely to get to them before we do if we wait for them to ripen, and this blog-post by David Lebovitz convinced me that the time was right to get picking.
I must admit that I was a little wary of making a whole litre of Nocino - not to mention the fact that there was no way I could find a large enough jar to do so (as it was I had to decant my preserved lemons out of the jar I used), so I ended up halving the recipe that David gives. But then of course we had, in our zeal for foraging, collected far too many walnuts...
A quick flick through a recent charity-shop-bargain recipe book - 'The National Trust Book of the Country Kitchen Store Cupboard' by Sara Paston-Williams - soon presented me with an ideal solution... Pickled Green Walnuts (recipe below). This is a lengthy process, but here are some of the more tender walnuts, pricked with a darning needle (note to self, wear gloves. These are worse than the cherries!) and floating in their first bath of brine. (Three days later the brine is black, and the nuts are beginning to blacken too... they look very sinister!)
But back to the Nocino...
It was a simple process, involving some careful chopping - some of the nut shells were beginning to form within the green casings - and then packing them into the jar along with the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, cloves, vanilla pod, sugar, and of course the 500ml of vodka.
And now all we have to do is wait. Already it's beginning to darken, but I think we will have to wait for Summer 2010 before it's ready to drink. I'm pretty excited by it.
Pickled Green Walnuts
The walnuts need to be soft enough to pass a knitting needle or skewer through them - I'd suggest picking in late June or early July. We used the softer ones for this pickle, and the ones that were beginning to harden (the shell starts to form at the end opposite the stalk) for the liqueur. Remember to wear rubber gloves unless you want to end up with the hands of a 60-a-day smoker...
1lb (450g) green walnuts
2pt (1.2 l) water
40z (125g) cooking salt
About 1pt (500ml) Pickling Vinegar (or simply use malt vinegar)
Prick walnuts lightly with a darning needle to allow them to be permeated by the pickle.
Make a strong brine mixing 1pt of water with 2oz of the salt to gether in a bowl. Add the walnuts to the brine and leave to stand for 3-4 days.
Drain, and mix up another brine solution using the remaining water and salt. Put the walnuts into this and leave for a further week.
Drain well, rinse and dry them, and spread them out on a tray or plate. Leave them in a sunny place for a couple of days or until the walnuts are completely black.
Pack into clean jars and cover with hot pickling vinegar.
Seal well when cold and store in a cool, dry place for 6-8 weeks before using.