Have you noticed how the French have a tendency to make exaggerated Stan Laurel expressions of disgust at the mention of British food? They must imagine we eat unspeakably vile things, for they aren't able to articulate what they are when challenged.
Which is a bit rich considering they eat tête de veau and rognons blancs and where all manner of things that could have been pulled from a vet's bucket are on display in supermarkets and boucheries.
|Back by popular demand|
But I have to admit, even I was reluctant to try these pickled walnuts, a traditional English accompaniment to strong cheese and cold meat, especially after seeing them at the drying-out stage, when they resembled cremated golf balls. But once they're placed in spice-infused vinegar and left to mature for a bit, they wheeze back into life.
These are last year's vintage, so the harsh vinegary taste has been replaced with a top note of oriental spices. Even my French amis enjoyed them - begrudgingly.
2 kg young green walnuts (you should be able to slice through them easily with a knife)
brine to cover (150 g of salt per litre of water)
1 litre malt vinegar
400 g brown sugar
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp cloves
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 tsp coriander seeds
1. Prick the green walnuts a few times with a fork. (Be careful: the juice stains any porous surface dark brown and you may want to wear rubber gloves.) Place the walnuts in a bucket and fill with enough water to cover. Stir in the salt. Soak for 1 week, then drain and make the brine again. Soak for 1 more week.
2. After the second week, drain the walnuts and lay them out on trays to dry in an airy place. In 3-5 days they will turn black. Once they have all turned black, they are ready to pickle.
3. In a large pot, stir together the malt vinegar, brown sugar, allspice, cloves and cinnamon. Bring to the boil and then add the walnuts. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
4. Spoon the walnuts into sterile jars and fill with the syrup to within 1 cm of the top. Seal with lids and rings. Store in the refrigerator or sterilise in a hot water bath for 10 minutes before cooling to room temperature and storing in a cool dark cupboard.