Celebrating the Walnut.

The guest of honour in this post is the walnut.

A couple of summers ago, I discovered an old, unloved walnut tree on the outskirts of Hobart on the way to the Kingston Highway at Jim’s Oasis.  I’d been dropping in at Jim’s for years after work before getting home for that last minute bit of shopping for that evening’s dinner. It wasn’t until I was in full foraging mode that I even registered what the big old tree in the back car park was. Situated in a sea of tarmac, this beautiful old walnut tree had survived decades of neglect, and seemingly, few knew of its existence and the treasures it offered.

My dismay then, just the other day as I drove past the site of this old beauty, knew no bounds – it had gone!!  Cut down without ceremony and in its place – a concrete wasteland.

This then is a dedication to its passing……….Given that these are the last of their kind, I thought it fitting to give them a suitable resting place – just for the photo and until I get to eat them that is……..

The porcelain bowl is one of a series I made a couple of years ago.  Developed by folding and scoring cardboard to create a range of shapes, these were then fibreglassed and plaster moulds were made from them.  The final clay forms were then slip cast in porcelain.

Whilst these had been created as an exercise in form, there have been some obvious sources of inspiration.  On a recent ferry ride from Sydney’s Circular Quay to Manly, for example……..……..and then a visit to the Art Gallery of New South Wales that followed…………….(David Moore’s classic shot ‘Sisters of Charity, Washington DC’ taken in 1956)But back to walnuts.

These were what I discovered during the summer (December in Tasmania) last year – the tree at Jim’s Oasis had developed some really large walnuts. Our family have always had a passion for pickled walnuts, it brings out the British in us I guess.  So the following recipe is for pickled walnuts.

The walnuts have to be picked whist still green, to test – pierce with a sharp skewer and if it penetrates easily, then the the nuts inside are undeveloped and so are at the ideal stage for pickling. Firstly – pay attention to the recipe when it calls for wearing rubber gloves – the juices really do make your hands look very jaundiced – and it stays around for weeks – not a good look……..

  • Ingredients: Brine:
  • 2 kg picked green walnuts
  • enough cold water to cover all the nuts
  • 225gm salt

Prick the walnuts with a fork and cover with the brine liquid. Leave for a week, then drain and renew with a fresh brine solution for another week. Drain the walnuts and lay out on trays in a dry, airy place. After a few days they will have turned black.

  • Ingredients: Pickling liquid:
  • 1 litre malt vinegar
  • 500g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

Combine the above remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring them to the boil, add the walnuts and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and spoon the nuts into large (sterilized) jars and cover with the liquid. They should last for years.

The walnuts from my (now no longer) walnut tree were foraged in January, when the ripened and hardened shells of the nut had burst from their green shells and were harvested to use in the following……..

Walnut and Oatmeal Biscuits.

Walnut and Oatmeal biscuits – ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Method:

Gather your walnuts and remove the nuts – this was done 1970s style…….………in actual fact, it was a damn sight easier with a small rock.

Next, blend together all the dry ingredients. Add vanilla essence and the egg (I forgot the egg and had to add a little milk instead) and melted butter.  Work mixture together to create a dough and press this out – cut biscuits out with upturned glass.

Prior to all this, the fire in the fire-pit had been lit, and the Dutch oven placed beside it to warm up. A word here about Dutch ovens – Brunyfire managed to acquire the classic cook book for campfire cooking – the Absalom’s Outback Cooking in the Camp Oven. The other handy book to have is Australian Bush Cooking by Cathy Savage that has a section on camp oven cooking as well as more direct ways of campfire cooking.

Before putting biscuits into the pre-warmed camp oven, place a small cake rack on the bottom of the camp oven, this will protect the biscuits from burning. Place the biscuit mixture onto well greased tray, and put this onto the rack. Put on the lid of the camp oven and place the whole thing onto a bed of coals, shovel a few coals onto the lid. Cook biscuits for 10-15 mins.Bung on the billy whilst you’re cooking the bikkies…………

Check the biscuits after about 10 minutes, and rotate the oven (so the biscuits don’t burn nearest the coals).

More like an ANZAC but with a definite taste of walnut – good with a cup of bush billy tea…….………and great with a slice of creamy o.d.o. (One Day Old from Bruny Island Cheese Co.) cheese and pickled walnuts.

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2 Responses to “Celebrating the Walnut.”

  1. Oh. Excellent. Those oatmeal-walnut biscuits with the cheese and pickles. Fabulous. But the best is the brined walnuts, looking like a barrel of floating brains!

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