Duet of Pickled Walnuts

These are two exceptional recipes from a 14th-century Egyptian cookery book. For both, you, of course, need fresh green walnuts; the book recommends those of April, when they are fully grown. The first recipe is a a tart and tangy one, and starts off with salting the walnuts for about twenty days (no cheating!), until they have released all of the nasty black juice inside, and acquire a slightly sweet taste. After washing them, they’re ready for their second bath, in a mixture of vinegar and the usual suspects of herbs and spices, including garlic and mint.

The first stage for the second recipe is identical to the first, but things are very different after that since they will be spicy, sweet, and sour. Before fermentation, the walnuts are gusseyed up with some saffron and rosewater. Then, it’s time to cook up a syrup with ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ — including the aromatic aṭrāf al-ṭīb spice mix –, and wine vinegar. If you’re a purist, you will then decant this to a jar perfumed with agarwood and ambergris. If you’re low on those in the pantry, or your home insurance doesn’t cover you for that, you could always use any kind of preserving jar you have to hand. Don’t forget to seal it off, though, and then the walnuts are ready until you are!

tart and tangy…
All things nice with sugar and spice…

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