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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. Joanne – get out in the hedgerows and look for the lovely sour sloes. Sloe gin recipes abound, but I have discovered the French hereabouts (Brittany) use Calvados… should be interesting !

  2. They are so much more than pickled casings, the whole shape of the walnuts inside are there, it is just the shell which is missing.
    We opened our first jar of 2009 walnuts this week, had them with some superb roast pork and some lovely Cantal cheese. Suuuuper !!

    Because I rather went amok from the original vinegar recipe and last time I made PW, the shell had started to form and they are just not nice when crunchy – but the vinegar was TOO spicy and wrong. So I went right back to the textbook recipe from the Min of Ag and Fish book I gave the reference of above. So glad I did, they are really delicious. Also, I was sloppy about how long in the brine each of the two brinings, but very careful to expose them to daylight just for the one day – this has left them with a delicate nuttyness over the vinegar power.

    Hope everyone has as much success !!

    Now all my friends and family will come and cadge most of my produce.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jo

    I dont know about pickling the casings – why not test it out. I’d love to hear the results 🙂

    I have so many rosehips this year that I’m going to make loads of rosehip syrup and dry the hips for tea. I’ve never tried hawthorne syrup.

    It might be worth posting on our new forum as there seem to be a lot of seasoned preservers out there.

  4. Very pleased to have seen this. Have just been rescuing a few walnuts that squirrels had hidden in a pile of leaves. I adore wet walnuts. But a few is the most there ever is, because the squirrels take them before they drop. But I hadn’t thought of picking some so much earlier for pickling. My query, though, is that if the walnuts are pickled before the internal nuts have developed at all, are the casings on there own still pickleable to good effect now after the developed nut has been removed? They wouldn’t look great because they would be broken pieces, but the pickled walnuts are only really the pickled walnut cases in effect anyway. Does anyone know? It could be the best of both worlds.

    And in terms of what is in season to be made now from hedge row sources, not that it is pickle, but there is little bettr than Rose Hip syrup. It is SO delicious! And I am always amazed that so few people know how good it is. It is off topic, but I understand that you can made a good syrup from hawthorne berries too, although I have never tried it. I am going to this year, just to see, but I would be interested to hear if anyone else has ever tried any, and what thoughts were.


  5. I have just discovered a walnut tree with plenty of fruit.Its now 8th Aug I am too late to have a go a pickling?

    If I am could you advise what I could do instead, like collect and save


    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Mike

      Yes mid July is about the last time you could possibly pick them – the begining of July is best.

      When the walnots drop in September you can eat wet walnuts – delicious and crisp. Also you can take off the green skins and dry them to store (a week in a warm airing cupboard).

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Denbigh

    Thanks so much for leaving such an instructive comment. I’m going to take your advice and try making a batch your way. I will be gather walnuts this weekend ready for the 2010 challenge.

    Thanks again for dropping by.

  7. denbigh

    What a nice site…

    As a long-time pickler, just a couple of comments.
    First, after the two soaks in brine (I use 1lb/gallon) leave in a light but not so hot place, the idea being to get both sides to turn black (just turn over once)this should take about one day. To leave them longer till they shrivel up is a mistake, they should retain their shape but go black. If they shrivel, they will take up more of the pickling vinegar and be too sharp to the taste of most people.
    The prick-test should be at the opposite end to the stalk which is where the shell begins to form.
    I have always used brown sugar in the making, and have tried varying it, but 1lb/3pts seems to be just right.
    I deal with a dustbin-full each time I do them, so as to supply all our extended family. It means tipping off the brine is straight into the outside drain, which is handy for avoiding contact. I also start it carefully, as I want all the oil which sits on the surfact to go and not get back on the walnuts. I don’t know if it matters, but I have always done that.

    My source book was/is an admirable volume published by HMSO for Min of Ag and Fish. First published in 1929, my edition 1968. Amazingley, I have just looked and it is still in print!!! It costs just £8.95 from Amazon (mine was 9/6 from HMSO). It is a FANTASTIC source book and the recipes/formulas contained have never failed me.

    Search for “Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables” – this will be the best value for money cook-book in your library.

  8. Donita

    I’m wondering how your pickled walnuts turned out. I started the brine on a batch this morning, and am interested in the difference between the sweet and the savory recipes you used. Have you tried them yet?

  9. I heard it was traditional to harvest the walnuts (here in France) before Bastille day (14 July) We don’t have a walnut tree but there is one in the cow field next door and we have a friend five minute walk away that has a walnut tree and we’re supposed to be going round there one day this week – perfect timing 😉

    This year will be my first attempt at pickled walnuts – I never bothered until I tasted one last year (in August so too late to do any last year) I’ve been waiting for the walnuts ever since!

  10. mandy

    Do you have a recipe for cider vinegar
    We have just moved into a house with three apple trees and want to make chutneys and our own cider vinegar.
    Thanks Mandy

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