About Food – Kaklis Muraba (Pickled Walnuts)
Walnuts are rich in antioxidants and are thought to help in reducing inflammation in the arteries. They are a popular ingredient in Georgian cuisine and the unripe fruits are also pickled and eaten. In this recipe we will show how to make pickled walnuts. Many recipes for pickled walnuts use brine to prepare the walnuts and also use a pickling vinegar but this traditional Georgian recipe uses a different process that produces absolutely delicious pickled walnuts. It does take time and effort but the process is relatively simple and the end result is amazing!
Ingredients: 200 unripe walnuts, 3.5 kilos of sugar, 500 grams of honey (or sugar), 1 cinnamon stick, 10 cloves, 2 grams of vanilla extract, 2 cardamon seeds, 4 handfuls of Pickling Lime and 2 tbs of of Potassium Alum (this is the type of alum that you find in the grocery store for pickling).
The walnut fruit (drupe) must be picked before the nutshell has formed inside the green husk. In Georgia we pick them before the 24 June. Insert a sharp point into the end of the husk where it was connected to the tree. If you do not meet any hard resistance then you will know that the shell has not formed inside and it can be pickled.
Preparation: Use a knife to remove the stalk and outer skin of the green husks. NOTE: The clear juice of the walnut is a natural dye so you MUST wear gloves to handle them or your hands will be stained brown for weeks!
Preparing the walnuts: Prick each walnut fruit with a fork several times and add them to a bucket or deep bowl of water. Place a clean plate on the surface of the water to keep the walnuts submerged. Cover and leave for 7 days, changing the water each morning and each evening.
After 7 days, remove the walnut fruits (wear gloves!) and add to a deep bowl. Sprinkle 4 handfuls of Pickling Lime over the walnut fruits and add water until the walnuts are fully covered. Leave for 2 days. NOTE: Pickling Lime (Calcium Hydroxide – also called “food-grade Lime”) is traditionally used in Georgia for the first stage in pickling walnuts. It helps to improve firmness by introducing calcium that reinforces the pectin in the fruit or vegetable being pickled. Because Pickling Lime is alkaline it needs to be thoroughly rinsed off, otherwise it will leave some alkalinity and weaken the required acidity of the pickling process. If this happens, there could be a risk of botulism.
After 2 days remove the walnut fruits and add to a sieve. Rinse under cold water until they are clean and then transfer the walnuts to a bowl and leave under cold running water for 3 days. Dry the walnuts for 24 hours on a tray lined with baking or grease-proof paper. They will turn black. Once they have all turned black, they are ready to pickle.
Pickling the walnuts: Add boiling water to a large pot and add the walnuts. Continue to boil for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, pour out the water. Add more boiling water, continue to boil for 15 minutes and then pour out the water.
Add more boiling water to the pot. Add 2 tbs of Potassium Alum.
Stir and continue to boil for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, pour out the water.
Add more boiling water to the pot and continue to boil the walnuts for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, pour out the water.
Wearing rubber gloves prick each walnut fruit with a fork several times – this will allow the subsequent ingredients to permeate the fruit. Return the walnuts to the pot.
Add boiling water to a bowl. Add 400 grams of sugar or 6 heaped tbs of honey and stir thoroughly.
Pour the honey (or sugar) water into the pot containing the walnuts and simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, pour out the water.
Add 5 liters of water, together with 3.5 kilos of sugar to a new pot. Stir thoroughly and bring to the boil.
Add the walnuts and simmer on a very low heat for 1 hour.
While the walnuts are simmering, prepare the spices. We used a cinnamon stick.
You will also need 10 cloves, 2 grams of vanilla extract and 2 cardamon seeds.
We used a coffee grinder to grind the cinnamon stick.
Place the spices on a strip of cotton gauze.
Tightly wrap the gauze around the spices and tie it off.
After the walnuts have been simmering for 1 hour add the spice bundle to the pot and continue to simmer for a further 2 hours.
NOTE: Do not try to accelerate the process by using a high heat or the liquid will reduce and disappear!
After 2 hours, take out one of the walnuts and taste it. It should be soft. If the walnuts are ready but the liquid is still thin remove the walnuts and continue to simmer the liquid until it attains a syrupy texture.
Preparing the jars: You will need 4-5 1 kilo capacity jam jars (or more jars of lesser capacity). Sterilize the jars and their covers with steam. We used a special cover with a hole in the middle that fits over a pot of boiling water.
Allow the jars to dry (usually 2-3 minutes). Place the pickled walnuts in the sterilized jars. Pack them tight.
Fill each jar with the walnut syrup that was left in the pot when the cooked walnuts were removed.
Seal the jars. Store in a refrigerator or cool place. If the walnuts have been prepared correctly they should last for over 1 year.
Serving: The pickled walnuts are rich enough to be eaten by themselves.
Enjoy your pickled walnuts!