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My brined sunbaked walnuts …

The recipe says, ” … prepare the pickle as follows: Put some vinegar on to boil with 2 oz. of whole pepper, 1 oz. of allspice an 1oz. of bruised ginger to each quart. Boil for 15 minutes then pour this mixture over the walnuts boiling hot. When cool cover as described for BEETROOT.”

It has been a fascinating process up to this stage. First we had to find and pick the walnuts, “young before the hard shell is formed inside.” It would not have even entered my head to pickle walnuts but I bought a jar of them on an excursion to Daylesford and around about the same time I discovered a walnut farm just down the road from David’s house.

The first time I clambered over the fence to check the walnuts the trees had just come out of their winter sleep. There were leaves but no sign of walnuts. Then I walked past a few weeks later and noticed the oblong green fruit. We picked a couple and debated whether or not they were ready to pick. I though they were, David thought not so we left it for two weeks.

Green walnuts have a distinctive smell that transfers to the taste when they are pickled but disappears when they are left to form the shell and nut. I pierced them all over then put them in a strong brine for nine days. The next part of the process involves the sun. They need to be removed from the brine then left in the sun until they turn black. Mine turned black after just a few hours but the recipe says to leave them for three days.

I am following a recipe from Elizabeth Craig’s Family Cookery Cook Book an English book published in London around 1900. I bought it for $15 in an op shop. I feel fairly confident that my walnuts will work. I know what they look and taste like and I know what an oz is … many people now don’t. What interests me is the assumed knowledge that these books contain. So much of what was cooked and preserved was understood; a kind of transferred knowledge about ingredients and measurements, times, tastes and method. Craig’s recipe says to make a strong brine. I wonder why it needs to be strong and what the proportion of salt to water is in a strong brine. She says to change it every three days. A modern cookbook would tell me why to do this. She says to put some vinegar on. I wonder what sort of vinegar and how much is “some”.

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Elizabeth Craig’s recipe for pickled walnuts (and spiced pickled pears).

If the recipe works I know I will regret not picking more but it will be too late. The wood that forms the shell of the walnuts will have formed. I will have to wait until next year.

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