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The Pickled Walnuts project: stage two. Plus original recipes for spiced pickling vinegar

walnuts drying prior to picklingGood pickled walnuts are a wonderful accompaniment to strong cheese or cold meat. They are an English tradition. Often they are made with malt vinegar and can be very challenging to eat. This year I was determined to try to make the ultimate pickled walnut.

Part one of the challenge can be perused here.

After the two week saline soak (changing the solution after one week) I rinsed the walnuts and moved them down to the greenhouse to dry. This can take from 3-5 days. They turn a greyish black quite quickly. Not knowing how black the walnuts should be, I gave them a five day rest before starting the pickling process. As I had used our entire tranche of roasting trays, the pickling process had to start immediately on day five. D needed the trays to cook the Sunday roast.

Wishing to avoid expensive litigation involving claims for extensive dental repairs, I tested the walnuts for a final time. They were divided into four piles. Very soft, softish, firmish and hard. The latter were tossed immediately and the firmish will be devoured last. I’m hoping that the pickling process may soften them a little more. Next year I’ll be picking well before the end of June.

I’d researched and endlessly mulled over the recipes for my pickling spice. There aren’t a lot of pickled walnut recipes out there. I studied HFW’s one in The River Cottage Cookbook and eventually discovered this great site written by a pickled walnut fanatic back in 2005. Some of the links have died on the collection of pickling recipes. But enough had survived for me to get some pointers and the list of pickled walnuts for sale gave me a clear idea of the essential ingredient – vinegar. The rest is up to you. I did spot that many of the older recipes included garlic.

I made two pickling vinegars, one using white wine vinegar and the other cider vinegar. Very different. They both tasted good with a satisfying depth of flavour. But how will they combine with the walnuts and what will happen when they mature? Only time will tell. The results will be posted well before the start of the green walnut picking season next year.

I pulled out all the stops for these as they are my entries for Magic Cochin’s Inter Blog Great Pickled Walnut Challenge that will take place sometime in December. Meanwhile the jars are maturing on the new shelves in the barn. I’m still clearing up from the landslide disaster on rainy days. It could take some time.

The Pickled Walnuts project. Stage two

  • Having soaked your walnuts in a saline solution rinse them well in cold water and set them on non porous trays to dry. Beware setting them on plates unless you want a decoration of rows of small brown dots for ever.
  • Leave them to blacken and dry for 3-5 days. They will turn a deep, dark grey. The colour didn’t change much from the third day onwards.
  • Re test the walnuts for woodiness. Use a darning needle to prod the stalk end of the nut as this is the place where the nut casing hardens first. If the nut casing is hard, reject the nut.
  • Pack the nuts in sterilised jars leaving enough space to completely cover them with your pickling vinegar (use a ladle and funnel). Seal with sterilised plastic lined metal lids immediately.

In the end I had roughly 50 walnuts ready to be pickled and needed 2.5 litres of pickling spice to cover them. Here are my recipes.

Garlic and Tarragon spiced pickling white wine vinegar recipe

  • 1.5 litres of white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp of mixed white, pink and black peppercorns
  • 3 tbsp of allspice berries (whole)
  • 6 cloves
  • 1.5 tsp of ground mace
  • 1.5 tsp of dried tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 plump clove of fresh garlic chopped very fine
  • 3 tbsp of dark molasses sugar

Bring all the ingredients to simmering point and barely simmer for about an hour. Stir briskly and using a ladle and funnel, cover the walnuts with the hot spiced vinegar and seal the jars immediately. Leave to mature for 3 months.

Sweetish ginger spiced pickling cider vinegar recipe

  • 1.5 litres of organic cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of mixed white, pink and black peppercorns
  • 3 tbsp of allspice berries (whole)
  • 9 cloves
  • 1.5 tsp of ground mace
  • 3 level tbsp of grated fresh ginger
  • 2 plump cloves of fresh garlic chopped very fine
  • 9 tbsp of dark molasses sugar

Bring all the ingredients to simmering point and barely simmer for about an hour. Stir briskly and using a ladle and funnel, cover the walnuts with the hot spiced vinegar and seal the jars immediately. Leave to mature for 3 months.

  Leave a reply


  1. I’ve just been given a sack of green walnuts to pickle and as we don’t normally use the normally recommended malt vinegar was interested to know how your cider vinegar recipe turned out?
    Realise the post was a few years back but then they should be nicely matured?!
    Would love feedback if available

  2. Palstre

    Just wondered if most picklers rinse the walnuts very thoroughly after brining them twice, before leaving them to dry. All the recipes we have found don’t suggest this . My instinct is to rinse them, but haven’t found a recipe expect for this one above that recommends rinsing! The first batch we made a few years ago seemed quite salty. This year we have used a different recipe but again no rinsing suggested, just came across this one and am wondering should be take them out of the pickling solution, leave them to dry and re pickle ! ?/ Interested to hear what others think

  3. Hi from NZ, I have some pickled walnuts in a sweetish pickling vinegar (from about 2 years ago), unfortunately the walnuts are a bit hard (we had a storm about a month later than the ideal picking time so used up the fallen nuts) and not nice BUT the pickling liquid is divine. I read somewhere ages ago you can make a sauce by boiling down the liquid, adding brown sugar, molasses, minced garlic and ginger, crushed peppercorns, soy sauce and port wine and boiling for 30 minutes. Sounds good but I would love to have the proper recipe. Has anyone tried using the pickling liquid to make a sauce?

    • Hi, I came across this site after many years pickling walnuts; the liquor left in the jar in excellent as it is to enrich gravy, try a couple of tablespoons worth you’ll love it. Without the addition of any other ingredients it can also be simply reduced in a pan to create walnut ketchup; make sure you simmer it slowly and don’t reduce it too much, just until it starts to thicken. By the way, try pickled walnuts with cold roast beef and hot mashed potatoes, it’s the lunch or heroes!!
      All the best, Woody.

    • Hi there
      I’ve got one batch of walnuts drying after brining process & was given another bucket full so set out to prep them as I did with first batch only to find the shell had already started to form. Obviously it’s too late to get them ready for pickling BUT now what do I do with the green walnuts? Will they still ripen off of the tree?

  4. denbigh

    Sue. Unless I read your post incorrectly, you seem to be implying that you have skipped the brining stage and are congratulating yourself that they turned black quickly. The brining is done to extract water – then the pickling process will result in a safe acidity level (from the vinegar, but you could play around and use lemon juice or any other sharply acid source…). By safe, I mean that the acidity will prevent dangerous bacteria causing spoilage and/or food poisoning. Skip the brining and the water in the walnuts will cause a too weak acidity. I hope I WAS reading incorrectly!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Denbigh

      Thanks for this comment! I hope sue has already brined them before setting them in the sun too.


      hi Denbigh
      if you let the drupe dehydrate for say 10 days in a dry hot dark space, would it be okay to pickle the greeny-blacky wrinkled drupes do you think?
      i.e. can you think of a safe/good method without salt?

  5. Sue Todd

    Here in Cyprus we pick our green walnuts around the time of my birthday – 27th May – which is when I see the local women picking them to preserve in syrup. Called Glyko – they serve them with coffee. when I put them in the sun they go black on day one – and as the temperatures are high, I only leave for 2 days.

    I also make Hawthorn Jelly and use a recipe from an English cook book, “Preservering, Mrs Arthur Webb.

    For 5 lbs of hawthorn berries, stalks removed, add 4 1/2 pints water, bring to boil and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Strain the juice and for every pint juice add 1 lb sugar and juice of one large lemon. Boil for 20 minutes or until set and pot.

    i also add a few scented jeramium leaves to the juice which gives it an extra kick, on the advice of Nina in the village shop. The sharp sweet flavour is very popular here in Cyprus and makes a lovely gift.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Sue

      I’d love the recipe for preserving walnuts in syrup – sounds delish!

      Also thanks for the hawthorn berry recipe. Can’t wait to try it!

  6. Denbigh

    The brining process and drying have two purposes, to extract water and to turn them black. As long as you brined them fully (twice), I would guess you will be OK. They will be very dry, so will soak up the pickling liquor very well, so don’t make it too powerful, I would err on the side of sweetness rather than spiciness.

    Dont forget to feedback the results when you eat the first of your pickles, as this seems to have become a useful thread for would-be walnut picklers.

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